BEIRUT — The Islamic State group launched an attack Saturday on the Syrian border town of Kobani from Turkey — a first in the ongoing siege, a Kurdish official and activists said.
The assault began with a suicide attack by a bomber in an armored vehicle on the border crossing between Kobani and Turkey, said the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and Nawaf Khalil, a spokesman for Syria's powerful Kurdish Democratic Union Party.
The Islamic State group "used to attack the town from three sides," Khalil said. "Today, they are attacking from four sides."
Turkey, while previously backing the Syrian rebels fighting to topple President Bashar Assad in that country's civil war, has been hesitant to aid the Kobani fight over its own fears about stoking Kurdish ambitions for an independent state. Ankara had no immediate comment Saturday about Islamic State group fighters launching the assault from Turkish soil.
Associated Press journalists saw thick black smoke rise over Kobani amid the attack. The sound of heavy gunfire echoed through the surrounding hills as armored vehicles took up positions on the border. The Observatory said heavy fighting also took place southwest of the town where the Islamic State group brought in tanks to reinforce their fighters.
The Islamic State group began its Kobani offensive in mid-September, capturing parts of the town as well as dozens of nearby villages. The town later became the focus of airstrikes by the U.S.-led coalition against the militants.
Kurdish fighters slowly have been advancing in Kobani since late October, when dozens of Iraqi peshmerga fighters joined fellow Syrian Kurds in the battles. The fighting has killed hundreds of fighters on both sides over the past two months.
The Observatory said Saturday the latest fighting killed at least eight Kurdish fighters and 17 jihadis.
The Islamic State group has declared a self-styled Islamic caliphate in areas under its control in Iraq and Syria, governing it according to its violent interpretation of Shariah law. The group has carried out mass killings targeting government security forces, ethnic minorities and others against it.