Iraqi Kurds head to fight ISIS in Kobane

Eighty fighters were to make the journey from the base northeast of Kurdish regional capital Erbil

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More than 150 Kurdish Peshmerga fighters left a base in northern Iraq on Tuesday headed for Syrian to support their Syrian brethren in their fight against the Islamist state of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in the embattled border town of Kobane.

Peshmerga fighers are on the move from Erbil airport to the Turkish border town of Silopi from where they will travel by land to Kobane, Hemin Hawrami, a senior official in the Kurdistan Democratic Party, said in a tweet.

Infographic: Distribution of Kurdish population
Infographic: Distribution of Kurdish population

Eighty fighters were to make the journey from the base northeast of Kurdish regional capital Erbil overland through Turkey.

The other 72 were to fly to Turkey for the deployment to the Syrian border town.

The town on the Turkish border has become a crucial front in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group, which overran large parts of Iraq in June and also holds significant territory in Syria.

Turkey had agreed to allow the Peshmerga forces entry into Kobane - although the Turkish prime minister reiterated that his country would not be sending any ground forces of its own to Kobane.

A U.S. State Department official confirmed that Peshmerga fighters are on their way to Kobane but did not know when they were expected to arrive. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to be identified in discussing the issue.

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told the BBC that sending the Peshmerga was “the only way to help Kobane, since other countries don’t want to use ground troops.”

The ISIS group launched its offensive on Kobane and nearby Syrian villages in mid-September, killing more than 800 people, according to activists. The Sunni extremists captured dozens of Kurdish villages around Kobane and control parts of the town. More than 200,000 people have fled across the border into Turkey.

The U.S. is leading a coalition that has carried out dozens of airstrikes targeting the militants in and around Kobane.

The deployment of the 150 Peshmerga fighters, who were authorized by the Iraqi Kurdish government to go to Kobane, underscores the sensitive political tensions in the region.

[With AP]