KOBANE, Syria, Sept. 18 (UPI) — Islamic State forces captured 16 Kurdish villages in northern Syria, in the Kobani region near the border of Turkey, Thursday.
There was no assessment of casualties, but a leader of the battle-tested Kurdish People’s Protection Unit (YPG) said IS fighters used heavy weapons in the offensive, including tanks.
Fighting between rebel forces and Kurdish militias have continued for over a year in pockets of northern Syria that include a large Kurdish population, a conflict which is part of Syria’s civil war. The United Nations reported that over 190,000 have been killed, thus far, in the four-year war.
The Kurdish villages were lost to IS in a 24-hour period Wednesday and Thursday. Nawaf Khalil, a spokesman for Syria’s Kurdish Democratic Union Party, said Kurdish fighters withdrew from or lost as many as 20 villages and evacuated civilians as they retreated.
He called on Kurds around the world to come to Syria to defend Kobani, as did Turkey’s Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).
The fighting just across Turkey’s border is a problem for the country, a NATO member, which is reluctant to involve itself as a front-line combatant in Western nations’ plans for airstrikes on IS rebels in Syria and Iraq.