US President Barack Obama has said he is "deeply concerned" about the fate of majority Kurdish Syrian border town of Kobane, while attempting to rally support for the American-led coalition launching attacks on Islamic State (IS) jihadists.
Obama spoke at an airbase near Washington, where he and top American military officer Gen. Martin Dempsey on Tuesday met with high-ranking representatives from more than 20 members of the broad coalition — which includes both Western and Arab members — to discuss operations against IS. He added that current efforts were aimed at breaking Kobane's encirclement by IS and halting a major offensive in Iraq's Anbar province, which IS is now in almost complete control of, allowing it to push towards the western edges of the capital of Baghdad.
The president was also to hold a video conference with European leaders including British Prime Minister David Cameron on Wednesday.
Coalition aircraft have intensified a series of strikes on IS targets in the area around Kobane, also known by its Arabic name Ayn al-Arab, launching at least 21 attacks over the past two days. Local activists say that air support prevented IS from overrunning the town, and report that Kurdish YPG fighters battling the extremists now appear to be pushing them back. However, Obama said that he was still "deeply concerned about the situation in and around the Syrian town of Kobane."
— U.S. Central Command (@CENTCOM) October 14, 2014
The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported on Wednesday morning that coalition aircraft had carried out a number of airstrikes since Tuesday night. The monitoring group which collects information through a network of local sources, added that clashes between YPG and IS fighters continued in a number of neighborhoods, but there was currently a relative calm across the town.
Mustafa Ebdi, a journalist and activist from Kobane told VICE News on Wednesday afternoon that aircraft had hit IS targets inside the town itself earlier in the day, but that the situation was largely unchanged otherwise, with clashes occurring but no major advances from either side.
IS has effectively besieged Kobane for well over a year, but the extremist militant group launched a major offensive last month and eventually pushed into the town itself, raising its black flag and prompting fears that the remaining civilian population would be massacred. More than 180,000 other refugees have already fled into Turkey.
Kobane would be a major prize for IS, partly as a propaganda victory, but also because it would allow the extremist group to connect territory held in the Syrian province of Aleppo with its stronghold of Raqqa further east. It would also destroy the threat to their rear posed by the Kurds and give the group full control of a large stretch of the Turkish border, aiding the passage of fighters and oil in and out of the country.
IS are well armed and funded however and Obama warned that the group would not be defeated either quickly or easily. "One of the things that has emerged from the discussions, both before I came and during my visit here, is that this is going to be a long-term campaign," he said.
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