World Bulletin/News Desk
The U.S. military said it had air-dropped arms to Syrian Kurds battling ISIL near the Syrian town of Kobani, the first such delivery in more than a month of fighting and a move that could upset Turkey.
The U.S. Central Command said it had delivered weapons, ammunition and medical supplies to the Kurds who are trying to stave off an onslaught by ISIL fighters who have overrun swathes of Syria and Iraq this year.
The main Syrian Kurdish group defending Kobani from the better armed ISIL militants said on Monday the town had received "a large quantity" of ammunition and weapons; and hopes for more support
"It will have a positive impact on the course of military operations and certainly we are still hoping for more support," Redur Xelil told Reuters via Skype.
Kobani, also known as Ayn al-Arab, is besieged by ISIL fighters to the east, west and south and bordered to the north by Turkey. The Turkish government has turned down Syrian Kurdish requests for it to open a land corridor so Kobani could be resupplied from other Kurdish areas of northern Syria.
Turkey views the Syrian Kurds with deep suspicion because of their ties to the PKK - a group that waged a decades-long militant campaign in Turkey.
The "resupply" of Kurdish fighters marks an escalation in the U.S. effort to help local forces beat back the radical Sunni militant group in Syria after years of trying to avoid getting dragged into the more than three-year Syrian civil war.
The United States began carrying out air strikes against ISIL targets in Iraq in August and about a month later started bombing the militant group in neighboring Syria, in part to prevent it from enjoying safe haven on Syrian territory.
In a brief statement, the U.S. Central Command said U.S. Air Force C-130 aircraft "delivered weapons, ammunition and medical supplies that were provided by Kurdish authorities in Iraq and intended to enable continued resistance against ISIL's attempts to overtake Kobani," using an acronym to refer to ISIL.
The Central Command said 135 U.S. air strikes near Kobani in recent days, combined with continued resistance against ISIL on the ground, had slowed the group's advances into the town and killed hundreds of its fighters.
"However, the security situation in Kobani remains fragile as ISIL continues to threaten the city and Kurdish forces continue to resist," the statement said.
The Central Command mentioned no new air strikes around Kobani, whose strategic location has blocked the militants from consolidating their gains across northern Syria.
U.S. officials, speaking in a conference call, described the weapons delivered as "small arms" but gave no details.
The United States gave Turkey advance notice of its plans to deliver arms to the Syrian Kurds, a group Turkey views with deep distrust because of its links to Turkish Kurds who have fought a an insurgency in which 40,000 people were killed.
"President Obama spoke to Erdogan yesterday and was able to notify him of our intent to do this and the importance that we put on it," one senior U.S. official told reporters.
"We understand the longstanding Turkish concern with the range of groups, including Kurdish groups, that they have been engaged in conflict with," he added. "However, our very strong belief is that both the United States and Turkey face a common enemy in ISIL and that we need to act on an urgent basis."
The Turkish presidency said Obama and Erdogan had discussed Syria, including measures that could be taken to stop ISIL's advances, and Kobani.
In a statement published on Sunday, it also said Turkish assistance to over 1.5 million Syrians, including around 180,000 from Kobani, was noted in the conversation.
Obama and Erdogan agreed to continue working closely to strengthen the joint fight against ISIL, it added.
Three C-130 transport aircraft dropped 27 bundles of weapons and medical supplies to the Syrian Kurds, said a second U.S. official, adding the planes left Syrian air space unharmed and that the majority of the bundles had reached their targets.
In comments published by Turkish media on Monday, Erdogan equated the main Syrian Kurdish group, the PYD, with the PKK.
"It is also a terrorist organisation. It will be very wrong for America with whom we are allied and who we are together with in NATO to expect us to say 'yes' (to supporting the PYD) after openly announcing such support for a terrorist organisation," Erdogan said.
Thousands of people would likely be massacred if Kobani were to fall to ISIL militants, according to U.N. envoy Staffan de Mistura. It would also allow the group to link its self-declared capital in Raqqa with its fighting positions in the contested city of Aleppo to the west and the Iraqi city of Mosul to the east.
“What we’ve seen over the course of the last several days and weeks is ISIL surged its resources towards Kobani -- masses of fighters and heavy weapons,” said another official. “The forces fighting on the ground have been in a tough fight for a number of weeks now, and it came to our attention that they are running low on supplies. For that reason, the President determined to take this action now.”Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Ekim 2014, 10:50