IS in major assault on Syria border town: Monitor

IS in major assault on Syria border town: Monitor

BEIRUT - The Islamic State jihadist group launched a major offensive Wednesday to try to capture a strategic town on the Syrian-Turkish border, sparking fierce clashes with Kurdish militia, a monitor said.

"Fighters from the Islamic State group started a huge assault towards Ras al-Ain, and were able to take over a village nearby," said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Ras al-Ain, in Hasakeh province, was the scene of major fighting in 2013 before Kurdish forces ousted rebels and Al-Qaeda-linked jihadists from the town, which has a border crossing with Ceylanpinar in Turkey.

Ras al-Ain and surrounding villages are under the control of the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), and the new clashes have left dozens dead from both sides, the Britain-based Observatory said.

A spokesman for the Democratic Union Party (PYD), the YPG's political arm, confirmed the intense battles.

The offensive comes just weeks after Kurdish fighters drove IS out of the Syrian town of Kobane further west along the Turkish border.

The town, which was devastated by months of fighting and US-led coalition air strikes, became a prominent symbol of resistance against the jihadists.

Kurdish and allied forces have since taken much of the surrounding countryside in northern Aleppo province and have begun pushing east into neighbouring Raqa province, home to IS's self-proclaimed "capital".

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