MURSITPINAR Turkey/ANKARA - Islamic State fighters launched a renewed assault on the Syrian city of Kobani on Wednesday night, and at least 21 people were killed in riots in neighbouring Turkey where Kurds rose up against the government for doing nothing to protect their kin.
Heavily outgunned defenders said Islamic State militants had pushed into two districts of the mainly Kurdish border city late on Wednesday, despite US-led air strikes that the Pentagon acknowledged would probably not be enough to safeguard the town.
In Turkey, street battles raged between Kurdish protesters and police across the mainly Kurdish southeast, in Istanbul and in Ankara, as fallout from war in Syria and Iraq threatened to unravel the NATO member's own delicate Kurdish peace process. The street violence was the worst Turkey had seen in years.
Washington said on Wednesday night that the US military and partner nations carried out eight air strikes against Islamic State fighters near the embattled Syrian city of Kobani, which it said was still under the control of Kurdish militia.
"US Central Command continues to monitor the situation in Kobani closely. Indications are that Kurdish militia there continue to control most of the city and are holding out against ISIL," the Pentagon statement said, using another acronym for Islamic State.
Central Command added that the strikes, in which Jordan took part, destroyed several Islamic State targets, including five armed vehicles, a supply depot, a command-and-control compound, a logistics compound and eight occupied barracks. The United States also launched three strikes against Islamic State in Iraq.
But Kobani remained under intense bombardment from Islamic State emplacements, within sight of Turkish tanks at the nearby frontier that have so far done nothing to help.
"Tonight, (Islamic State) has entered two districts with heavy weapons including tanks. Civilians may have died because there are very intense clashes," Asya Abdullah, co-chair of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), the main Kurdish group defending the area, told Reuters from inside the town.
US officials were quoted voicing impatience with the Turks, Washington's most powerful ally in the area, for refusing to join the coalition against Islamic State fighters who have seized wide areas of Syria and Iraq.
"There's no question the US government thinks Turkey can do more, should do more, and that they are using excuses not to do more," said a US official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "We have been sending that message very clearly behind the scenes."
Analysts and US officials said Turkey's hesitance to commit its military, NATO's second-largest, to save Kobani reflected a fear of emboldening and empowering its own Kurdish population, which has long sought greater autonomy.
Turkey says it could join only if Washington agrees to use force against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the Sunni Muslim jihadists fighting him in a three-year-old civil war.
Turkey's Kurds, who make up the majority in the southeast of the country, say President Tayyip Erdogan is stalling while their brethren are killed in Kobani.
Police fired tear gas and water cannon to disperse demonstrators who burned cars and tyres. Authorities imposed curfews in at least five provinces, the first time such measures have been used widely since the early 1990s.