Kurds hold off Islamic State in Kobani; fighters strike in Iraq

(Reuters) – Kurdish defenders held off Islamic State militants in Syria’s border town of Kobani on Sunday, but the fighters struck with deadly bombings in Iraq, killing dozens of Kurds in the north and assassinating a provincial police commander in the east.

The top U.S. military officer suggested that Washington, which has ruled out joining ground combat in either Iraq or Syria, could nevertheless increase its role “advising and assisting” Iraqi troops on the ground in future.

A U.S.-led military coalition has been bombing Islamic State fighters who hold swathes of territory in both Iraq and Syria, countries involved in complex multi-sided civil wars in which nearly every country in the Middle East has a stake.

In Syria, the main focus in recent days has been on the mainly Kurdish town of Kobani near the Turkish border, where Kurdish defenders have been trying to halt an advance by fighters who have driven 200,000 refugees across the border.

The jihadists have laid siege to the town for nearly four weeks and fought their way into it in recent days, taking control of almost half of the town. A U.N. envoy has said thousands of people could be massacred if Kobani falls…

(Photo: Smoke rises from the Syrian town of Kobani, seen from near the Mursitpinar border crossing on the Turkish-Syrian border in the southeastern town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province October 12, 2014. Credit: Reuters/Umit Bektas)

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