BEIRUT - The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) killed 120 civilians in a 24-hour rampage through the Kurdish town of Kobane in what a monitor said was one of the militants' "worst massacres" in Syria.
The killing spree in the town, which has become a symbol of Kurdish resistance, was widely seen as vengeance for a series of defeats inflicted on the militants by Kurdish militia in recent weeks.
It began after three ISIS suicide bombers blew up vehicles at the entrances to the town on Thursday, clearing the way for their fellow militants to enter. Women and children were among the slain civilians whose bodies were found in their homes and in the streets, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. "According to medical sources and Kobane residents, 120 civilians were executed by ISIS in their homes or killed by the group's rockets or snipers," observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said yesterday.
"When they entered the town, the jihadists took up positions in buildings at the south-east and south-west entrances, firing at everything that moved."
Local journalist Mostafa Ali said there was no military dimension to the ISIS assault. "ISIS doesn't want to take over the town. They just came to kill the highest number of civilians in the ugliest ways possible," he said.
The militant group also executed 26 civilians in a village outside Kobane on Thursday, the observatory said.
The militants had entered Kobane at dawn disguised as fighters of the Kurdish People's Protection Units, said Mr Ali. They took up positions in buildings in the south of the town, using civilians as "human shields". "There are at least 70 civilians in these various neighbourhoods that have been taken hostage by ISIS," he said.
Said Mr Abdel Rahman: "Thousands of civilians have fled the two neighbourhoods taken by ISIS on Thursday." He said Syrian government forces were carrying out air strikes against militant positions in the city, where they share control with Kurdish forces.
Kobane was the scene of one of ISIS's most dramatic defeats in January when the group was ousted by Kurdish militia backed by United States-led air strikes.