Iraqi Peshmerga Fighters Prepare for Syria Battle

Kurdish Peshmerga fighters take cover during airstrikes targeting militants outside the city of Irbil, Iraq, on Aug. 8, 2014. Khalid Mohammed/AP
Kurdish Peshmerga fighters take cover during airstrikes targeting militants outside the city of Irbil, Iraq, on Aug. 8, 2014. Khalid Mohammed/AP

MURSITPINAR, Turkey — An official for the main Syrian Kurdish force says Iraqi peshmerga fighters are getting ready for the battle against Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) extremists in the border town of Kobani.

Shorsh Hassan, a spokesman for the People's Protection Units, or YPG, says the peshmerga and the YPG are preparing a plan for the role that Iraqi Kurdish troops will play.

Hassan's comments Saturday came after some 150 peshmerga fighters entered Kobani on Friday night to fight the extremist group that controls parts of the town.

The force brought in badly needed heavy weapons including artillery, heavy machine guns and anti-tank missiles, material that could tip the balance of power in favor of the Kurds.

Islamic State group positions in Kobani also have been targeted by U.S.-led airstrikes.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and Kobani-based activist Mustafa Bani said the Iraqi Kurdish force entered Kobani from an area west of the town near the strategic Tel Shair hill.

It was not clear why the force did not enter from the main border crossing point between Kobani and Turkey although it is likely because the area is subjected to attacks by the Islamic State group fighters.

Earlier on Friday night, journalists in the Turkish border town of Suruc saw the peshmerga force leaving the area where they had stayed for days and headed toward Kobani.

The fighters left in a convoy Friday night while waving Kurdish flags and giving the victory sign. As soon as the news spread in Suruc, fireworks were let off.

The peshmerga fighters came out cheering "Kobani, Kobani," while honking the horns of their vehicles and waving their rifles in the air. A line of Turkish riot policemen stood in front to prevent photographers from taking pictures of the fighters as they left.

Earlier in the day a Kurdish official blamed Ankara for the delay of the peshmerga force deployment for days.

The official with Syria's powerful Kurdish Democratic Union Party, or PYD, claimed Turkish leaders had been hoping that militants from the Islamic State group would capture the town before the Iraqi fighters entered.

"There have been so many delays and the peshmerga are not to blame. The Turks are behind the delays," he said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter. He added that attacks by IS on Kobani have increased meanwhile.

His comments illustrated the deep distrust between Syria's Kurds and Turkey. Relations between Turkey and Syria's Kurds have long been strained, in large part because Ankara believes the PYD is affiliated with the Kurdish PKK movement that has waged a long and bloody insurgency in southeast Turkey.

On Oct. 22, lawmakers in Iraq's largely autonomous Kurdish region authorized peshmerga forces to travel to neighboring Syria and help fellow Kurds. The peshmerga fighters arrived in Turkey on Tuesday and have been staying in a facility in Suruc.

The hope is that the Iraqi Kurdish fighters will help reverse gains by Islamic State militants who have captured parts of the town as well as dozens of nearby villages.

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