SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association)
A convoy of Iraqi peshmerga fighters and weaponry made its way across southeastern Turkey on Wednesday en route for the Syrian town of Kobani to try to help fellow Kurds break an Islamic State siege which has defied US-led air strikes.
Kobani, on the border with Turkey, has been under assault from Islamic State militants for more than a month and its fate has become a test of the US-led coalition’s ability to combat the Sunni insurgents.
Weeks of air strikes on Islamic State positions around Kobani and the deaths of hundreds of their fighters have failed to break the siege. The Kurds and their international allies hope the arrival of the peshmerga, along with heavier weapons, can turn the tide.
Thousands of people took to the streets of the Turkish border town of Suruc, descending on its tree-lined main square and spilling into side streets, some with faces painted in the colors of the Kurdish flag, waiting to cheer on the convoy.
“All the Kurds are together. We want them to go and fight in Kobani and liberate it,” said Issa Ahamd, an 18-year-old high school student among the almost 200,000 Syrian Kurds who have fled to Turkey since the assault on Kobani began.
An initial group of between 90 and 100 peshmerga fighters arrived by plane amid tight security in the southeastern Turkish city of Sanliurfa overnight, according to Adham Basho, a member of the Syrian Kurdish National Council from Kobani.
A Kurdish television channel meanwhile showed footage of what it said was the convoy of peshmerga vehicles laden with weapons. The trucks have been snaking their way through southern Turkey towards Kobani after crossing from northern Iraq.
Saleh Moslem, co-chair of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), said the peshmerga were expected to bring heavy arms to Kobani — known as Ayn al-Arab in Arabic.
“It’s mainly artillery, or anti-armor, anti-tank weapons,” he said. The lightly armed Syrian Kurds have said such weaponry is crucial to driving back Islamic State insurgents, who have used armored vehicles and tanks in their assault.
Kurdistan’s Minister of Peshmerga, Mustafa Sayyid Qader, told local media on Tuesday that no limits had been set to how long the forces would remain in Kobani. The Kurdistan Regional Government has said the fighters would not engage in direct combat in Kobani but rather provide artillery support.