IS Attack on Turkish Border Town Prompts US Airstrikes

IS Attack on Turkish Border Town Prompts US AirstrikesIS Attack on Turkish Border Town Prompts US Airstrikes

Islamic State militants launched an assault on a Kurdish-controlled town on Syria’s border with Turkey on Saturday, prompting airstrikes by the US-led coalition to drive them back.

The hardline Sunni fighters attacked Tal Abyad, which is controlled by the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, and the nearby town of Suluk in the early hours of Saturday, YPG spokesman, Redur Xelil, and Turkish security sources told Reuters.

Coalition warplanes carried out 10 airstrikes to repel the assault, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported. It said at least 45 IS militants and 20 Kurdish militia fighters had been killed.

In an emailed statement, the US military said the coalition conducted multiple airstrikes on Saturday near Tal Abyad.

The attack was launched hours after a “cessation of hostilities” came into effect under a US-Russian plan, although the temporary truce does not apply to terrorist groups such as IS and Al-Qaeda-affiliate the Nusra Front, meaning the Syrian government, Moscow and the coalition reserve the right to strike them. The truce appeared largely to be holding across much of Syria.

Xelil said the YPG and Syrian Kurdish internal security forces were able to “crush this attack and encircle the attackers”, although he gave no casualty toll.

The YPG captured Tal Abyad from IS last year in an offensive backed by US-led airstrikes. The town lies north of Raqqa and had been a key supply line for the capital of IS militants.

The Turkish security sources said the attack was launched on two fronts and that the sound of gunfire and explosions, audible from the town of Akcakale on the Turkish side, had continued for several hours. Intermittent gunfire could still be heard.

The security sources and a witness in Akcakale said warplanes thought to be from the US-led coalition struck IS positions and that the Turkish Army had increased patrols on its side of the border.

While not directly addressing the Tal Abyad attack, 14 Turkish F-16s patrolled the Turkish-Syrian border on Friday, Turkish military said.

Xelil said some of the attackers infiltrated from the Turkish border to the north, reiterating accusations that Turkey was supporting the group.

Turkey has consistently denied those accusations and the security sources said recent measures to stop illegal crossings meant it was impossible that the attackers had entered from Turkey.