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Islamic State group kills at least 145 civilians in Syria’s Kobane

AFP | Archival photo of Islamic State group fighters

The Islamic State group killed at least 145 civilians in an attack on the Syrian town of Kobane and a nearby village, in what a monitoring group described on Friday as one of the worst massacres by the hardline group in country.

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The militants pressed a separate assault to capture government-held parts of the northeastern city of Hasaka, blowing up a security building and triggering a government appeal for all residents to take up arms. The United Nations said 60,000 people were reported to have fled the attack.

The twin attacks which began on Thursday showed the Sunni extremist group returning to the offensive in Syria after two weeks of defeats at the hands of Kurdish-led forces, supported by US-led air strikes.

Earlier this week the Kurds advanced to within 50 km (30 miles) of Raqqa city, the group’s de facto capital.

The Kurdish YPG militia described the attack on Kobane as “a suicide mission” rather than an attempt to capture the town at the Turkish border. It said it fought intermittent gun battles on Friday with Islamic State group fighters holed up in three locations.

The Islamic State group has a record of conducting large scale killings of civilians in territory it captures in both Iraq and Syria, where it has proclaimed a caliphate to rule over all Muslims according to an ultra-hardline vision of Islam.

The attack on the predominantly Kurdish town of Kobane and the nearby village of Brakh Bootan marked the biggest single massacre of civilians by the group in Syria since it killed hundreds of members of the Sunni Sheitaat tribe last year, Rami Abdulrahman, who runs the Observatory, said.

“The Daesh attack was a suicide mission. Its aim wasn’t to take the city but to create terror,” YPG spokesman Redur Xelil said, using an Arabic name for the group.

The assault included at least three suicide car bombs. The dead included the elderly, women and children.

Wresting control

Unlike the Kobane raid, the attack on Hasaka appears aimed at wresting control of the government-held parts of city, which is divided into areas run separately by President Bashar al-Assad’s government and the YPG.

“I call on every man, every young woman and every young man able to carry weapons to move immediately and join the frontline positions to defend the city,” Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi said in an appeal on state television.

At least 20 soldiers and members of militia fighting alongside them were killed in the attack on the security building mounted by two suicide bombers, the Observatory said.

While the Islamic State group had managed to advance slightly in Hasaka on Friday, seizing one army position, fierce army air strikes had hindered the attack, the Observatory’s Abdulrahman said.

In the latest attacks, the group had picked targets with a low risk of air support from the US-led alliance. In Kobane, also known as Ayn al-Arab, aerial bombardment risked civilian casualties in the residential areas targeted in the attack.

In Hasaka, the group targets were in areas controlled by Assad. The US-led coalition, which has been bombing Islamic State group militants in both Syria and Iraq since last year, has ruled out cooperating with Damascus.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said an estimated 50,000 people had been displaced within Hasaka city while 10,000 had left northwards towards Amuda town, close to the Turkish border.

It warned that up to 200,000 people could eventually flee.

State news agency SANA said scores of militants were killed in the army air strikes.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)

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