First Iraqi Kurdish fighters arrive in Turkey, bound for Syria's town of Kobane to fight ISIS

SANLIURFA, Turkey (AFP) - The first Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga fighters bound for the battleground Syrian town of Kobane arrived in neighbouring Turkey early on Wednesday, a Turkish official told AFP.

After flying in from Iraq, on their way to tackle Islamic State in Iraq and Syria fighters around Kobane, an unknown number of the peshmerga combatants headed immediately for the Turkey-Syria border by bus, a journey of some 50km.

They were escorted by four Turkish armoured cars and a police vehicle.

Turkish security forces closed off the road to the border, preventing the many gathered journalists from following the convoy.

Earlier, the dozens of peshmerga fighters had loaded machine guns and mortars into trucks at an airbase in northern Iraq.

Last week, under heavy US pressure, Turkey unexpectedly announced it would allow some 150 fighters from Iraq's autonomous Kurdish province to cross its territory to join the fight for Kobane.

The main Syrian Kurdish fighting force in the town, the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), has close links with the outlawed rebel Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has fought a three-decade insurgency in south-east Turkey.

Ankara had previously resisted calls to allow in reinforcements.

The deployment comes at a time when Kurdish forces are still engaged in heavy fighting against IS militants in Iraq.