Syrian Kurd leader sees war of "attrition" in Kobani

Reuters , Friday 24 Oct 2014

Smoke rises over the Syrian town of Kobani near the Mursitpinar border crossing, on the Turkish-Syrian border, as seen from the southeastern town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province October 24, 2014 (Photo: Reuters)

The battle for the Syrian town of Kobani will turn into a war of attrition unless Kurds defending it from an Islamic State onslaught get arms that can repel tanks and armoured vehicles, a Syrian Kurdish leader told a pan-Arab newspaper.

Islamic State insurgents encircled the town near the Turkish border more than a month ago and are using weapons including tanks and armoured vehicles seized in Iraq to attack Kurds equipped mainly with light arms.

The United States, which has been leading air strikes against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, airdropped weapons to the Kurds in Kobani on Sunday that U.S. officials described as "small arms".

"(It's) attrition for both sides unless something in the situation changes," Saleh Moslem, head of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), told Asharq al-Awsat newspaper in remarks published on Friday.

He said the Kurds had recently received information that Islamic State wanted to fire chemical weapons into Kobani using mortars. He said the militant group had surrounded the town, whose Arabic name is Ayn al-Arab, with around 40 tanks.

"If we were to receive qualitative (stronger) weapons, we would be able to hit the tanks and armoured vehicles that they use - we may be able to bring a qualitative change in the battle," he said.

Asked about the recent arms air drop and the U.S.-led strikes, he said: "They are not enough to change the balance of power, but if they continue then they can bring about a change. Air raids so far are limited."

He accused Ankara of supporting the ultra-radical Islamic State, saying it had turned a blind eye when 120 IS fighters crossed the border from Turkey earlier this week.

Ankara denies aiding militants but has been loath to enable any help for Syrian Kurds who have links to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) that has waged a three-decade separatist insurgency in Turkey.

But Turkey has come under U.S. pressure to do more and on Thursday President Tayyip Erdogan said an agreement had been reached on sending 200 peshmerga from Iraq through Turkey to help defend Kobani.

A senior official in Iraq's Kurdistan region said they would be equipped with heavier weapons than those being used by Syrian Kurds already there.

Asked about the prospect of Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga forces joining the battle for Kobani, Moslem said none had arrived yet and talks were continuing on a technical level.

On Friday, Erdogan said the Kurdish PYD had agreed to the passage of 1,300 Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters to Kobani to reinforce Kurdish forces there.

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