Fiercest fighting in days hits Syrian border town

Smoke rises over Syrian town of Kobani after an airstrike, as seen from the Mursitpinar border crossing on the Turkish-Syrian border in the southeastern town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province, October 18, 2014. Reuters/Kai Pfaffenbach

URFA, Turkey, Oct 19 (Reuters) – The fiercest fighting in days shook the Syrian border town of Kobani overnight as Islamic State fighters attacked Kurdish defenders with mortars and car bombs, sources in the town and a monitoring group said on Sunday.

Islamic State, which controls much of Syria and Iraq, fired 44 mortars at Kurdish parts of the town on Saturday and some of the shells fell inside nearby Turkey, according to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. It said four more mortars were fired on Sunday.

The month-long battle for Kobani has ebbed and flowed. A week ago, Kurds said the town would soon fall. The United States and its coalition partners then stepped up air strikes on Islamic State, which wants to take Kobani in order to strengthen its position in northern Syria.

The coalition has been bombing Islamic State targets in Iraq since August and extended the campaign to Syria in September after Islamic State, a group that espouses a rigid interpretation of Islam and initially fought Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces, made huge territorial gains.

Raids on Islamic State around Kobani have been stepped up, with the fate of the town seen as an important test for U.S. President Barack Obama’s campaign against the Islamists…

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