Syria Crisis: ISIS Deadly Return to Kobane

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The ISIS attack on Kobane began with militants detonating a car bomb, followed by an assault from dozens of fighters from a number of directions.

Islamic State fighters have attacked the Syrian city of Kobane, months after being driven out in a symbolic battle that made international headlines.

They detonated car bombs and launched an assault. Kurdish media say at least 50 civilians have been killed, including 20 in a nearby village.

ISIS has recently suffered a string of defeats to Kurdish forces.

But in another attack on Thursday, it seized parts of the key north-eastern city of Hassakeh.

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The apparent two-pronged IS offensive came as Kurdish fighters from the Popular Protection Units (YPG) cut a major supply line for IS near Raqqa.

Raqqa is the de facto capital of the caliphate whose creation IS announced a year ago after it captured large swathes of northern and western Iraq.

Kobane still matters to ISIS. It was never important strategically, but this latest attack shows that its loss, after five months of heavy street-to-street fighting and coalition aerial bombardment, still hurts ISIS.

The injured have been brought to hospital in Kobane

The injured have been brought to hospital in Kobane

As was the case last November when a huge vehicle bomb exploded at the same spot, questions are being asked if the attackers made it in from the Turkish side, and if so, why Turkey didn’t stop them.

Thursday’s assault is a reminder, too, that ISIS, despite recent losses in the area, is still very much active and capable of offensives. Overnight they also attacked Hassakeh to the east, a far bigger prize.

[Read the full text here, at BBC News]

Despite the narrative of the last few weeks, ISIS is far from being on the back foot.

Smoke rises over Kobane

Smoke rises over Kobane

The ISIS attack on Kobane began with militants detonating a car bomb, followed by an assault from dozens of fighters from a number of directions. Read the rest of this entry »


After Liberation Of Kobane, Kurdish Battle With ISIS Is Not Over

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 reports: Kurdish forces in Kobani reportedly chased the Islamic State group militants from the Syrian city on Monday. This is an immediate win for the Kurds, both strategically and symbolically, but it doesn’t signal a complete ISIS defeat, nor does it signal the end of the Kurdish battle against militants — in Kobani and elsewhere.

The Islamic State militants “are still in the Kobani area, just outside of the city,” said Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi, a Shillman-Ginsburg Fellow at the Middle East Forum.  “So the fight is hardly over if the YPG [the Kurdish People’s Protection Units] wants to regain the autonomous canton [province] it once had. The YPG is the immediate winner but things still look very bleak for Kobani. The town is destroyed.”

“What we are going to see in Kobani is Islamic State being forced back, and then a withdraw to consolidate. This is a natural phenomenon of war — you lose some and you win some and the same applies to the IS.”

— Jasmine Opperman, a South Africa-based analyst at the Terrorism Research and Analysis Consortium

Nearly four months long, the battle for Kobani (sometimes spelled Kobane) has been a huge focal point in the anti-ISIS campaign. Around 80 percent of the U.S-led coalition airstrikes since September have been in or around Kobani. Iraqi Kurdish forces and some Free Syrian Army brigades banded together to help Syrian Kurds push back militants. While this now appears to have been a successful campaign, ISIS is still present in Kurdish territory and isn’t likely to halt its efforts to consolidate territory in northern Syria.

YPG Commander and official Spokesman Polat Can announces the liberation of Kobane via Twitter

YPG Commander and official Spokesman Polat Can announces the liberation of Kobane via Twitter

“What we are going to see in Kobani is Islamic State being forced back, and then a withdraw to consolidate,” Jasmine Opperman, a South Africa-based analyst at the Terrorism Research and Analysis Consortium, recently told International Business Times.  “This is a natural phenomenon of war — you lose some and you win some and the same applies to the IS.”

ISIS fighters still control 350 towns and villages surrounding the city, where they can retreat and regroup.

“Soon the YPG will start clearing the villages,” said Kurdish analyst Mutlu Civiroglu. “They are technically under ISIS control but not really.”

“Kurds think that regime is trying to break out a civil war between Kurds and Arabs. Some Arabs are with Kurds … some Arabs are with the regime. The regime is trying to appeal to people’s nationalistic feelings to rebel against the Kurds.”

However, Kurds are facing another threat just miles away in Hasakah, the last city in the Kurdish area of northern Syria with a significant regime presence, and a major energy and agricultural hub. In the last month, the YPG have had to battle the Syrian regime’s National Defense Forces, made up of local Arab tribesmen and Iranian reinforcements.

“Kurds think that regime is trying to break out a civil war between Kurds and Arabs,” Civiroglu said. “Some Arabs are with Kurds … some Arabs are with the regime. The regime is trying to appeal to people’s nationalistic feelings to rebel against the Kurds.”

This month, ISIS has been quietly redeploying fighters to Hasakah, according to the Institute for the Study of War. Hasakah is just hours away from Iraq’s Ninawa province, making it a strategic launching point to attack Sinjar, where ISIS killed thousands of Yazidis this summer, and engage the already thinly stretched Iraqi peshmerga (Kurdish) forces in another battle. Read the rest of this entry »