Syrian Kurds giving targets for US strikes against IS

Syrian Kurds giving targets for US strikes against IS

MURSITPINAR Turkey/BEIRUT - The United States and its allies have dramatically stepped up air strikes in the past two days near the Syrian town of Kobani, where Kurdish defenders said they had given the Americans target coordinates to try to halt an Islamic State assault.

The US-led military coalition said it had bombed Islamic State targets in and around Kobani nearly 40 times in the space of 48 hours, around triple the pace of last week.

A four-week siege of the mainly Kurdish town on the border with Turkey has become a focus of the US-led effort to halt the militants, who have seized swathes of territory in Syria and Iraq. The United Nations has warned of a massacre if the town falls to the militants, who now control nearly half of it.

The coalition has been bombing Islamic State targets in Iraq since August and extended the campaign to Syria in September. After weeks in which Kobani was rarely targeted, the town has become the main focus of strikes.

The Pentagon declined to confirm any coordination with the main Kurdish armed group, YPG. "I just don't have any details to announce or speak to with respect to coordination on the ground," US Rear Admiral John Kirby, the Pentagon's press secretary, told reporters when asked about the report.

Kirby said the situation in Kobani was fluid but that the Pentagon believed Kurdish fighters still held the town.

In the two 24-hour periods since Monday, the US military reported 21 and 18 strikes on militant targets in or near the town, which is called Ayn al-Arab in Arabic. Last week it typically struck the area just six or seven times per day.

A monitoring group said the strikes had also become more effective, killing at least 32 Islamic State fighters in direct hits this week.

Kurdish officials said the YPG had begun giving the coordinates of Islamic State positions to the US-led alliance.

"The senior people in YPG tell the coalition the location of ISIL targets and they hit accordingly," YPG spokesman Polat Can told Reuters, using an acronym for Islamic State.

"Some of (the militants) have withdrawn, but they regroup and return. But because the air strikes are working in coordination, they hit their targets well," he said.

He did not disclose how the YPG fighters were sharing the coordinates.

John Allen, the US special envoy in charge of building the international coalition against Islamic State, suggested that Washington was open to receiving information on targets from all sources. Allen was not asked and did not address whether the Syrian Kurds are giving the US-led alliance such information.

"Obviously, information comes in from all different sources associated with providing local information or potentially targeting information. And we'll take it all when it comes in. It's ultimately evaluated for its value," Allen told reporters in Washington.

Other US officials declined comment when specifically asked about statements by Kurdish officials that the YPG had begun giving the coordinates of Islamic State positions near Kobani to the US-led alliance.

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