Isis seizes large areas of Syrian town

The fighters seized more than a third of the Syrian border town of Kobani, a monitoring group said.

FILE: IS fighters seized more than a third of the Syrian border town of Kobani, a monitoring group said on Thursday. Picture: AFP

MURSITPINAR - Islamic State fighters seized more than a third of the Syrian border town of Kobani, a monitoring group said on Thursday, as US-led air strikes failed to halt their advance and Turkish forces nearby looked on without intervening.

With Washington ruling out a ground operation in Syria, Turkey described as unrealistic any expectation that it would conduct a cross-border operation unilaterally to relieve the mainly Kurdish town.

The US military said Kurdish forces appeared to be holding out in the town that lies within sight of Turkish territory, following fresh airstrikes in the area against a militant training camp and fighters.

However, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Islamic State, which is still widely known by its former acronym of ISIS, had pushed forward on Thursday.

"ISIS control more than a third of Kobani - all eastern areas, a small part of the northeast and an area in the southeast," said Rami Abdulrahman, head of the Observatory which monitors the Syrian civil war.

The commander of Kobani's heavily outgunned Kurdish defenders confirmed that the militants had made major gains in a three-week battle that has also led to the worst streets clashes in years between police and Kurdish protesters across the frontier in southeast Turkey.

Militia chief Esmat al-Sheikh put the area controlled by Islamic State, which has already seized large amounts of territory in Syria and neighbouring Iraq, at about a quarter of the town. "The clashes are ongoing - street battles," he told Reuters by telephone from the town.

Explosions rocked the town throughout Thursday, with black smoke visible from the Turkish border a few kilometres away. Islamic State hoisted its black flag in Kobani overnight and a stray projectile landed 3 km inside Turkey.

The United Nations says only a few hundred inhabitants remain in Kobani but the town's defenders say the battle will end in a massacre if Islamic State prevails, giving it a strategic garrison on the Turkish border.

They complain that the United States is giving only token support through the air strikes, while Turkish tanks sent to the frontier are looking on but doing nothing to defend the town.

However, the US Central Command said it conducted five air strikes near Kobani on Wednesday and Thursday, and that the Kurdish fighters in the area appeared to "control most of the city and are holding out against" the militants.

The strikes had damaged an Islamic State training camp and destroyed one of its support buildings as well as two vehicles, CENTCOM said in a statement. They also hit one small unit and one large unit of militant fighters.