BEIRUT (AFP, REUTERS) - Islamic State group militants overran the headquarters of Kurdish forces defending the battleground Syrian border town of Kobane on Friday, a monitoring group said.
"The jihadists have taken control of the headquarters building," used by the Kurdish military and civilian authorities, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Fierce fighting had raged for the complex throughout the morning after IS militants captured part of it used by the Kurds' asayesh internal security force on Thursday.
“IS now controls 40 per cent of the town,” after entering eastern districts on Monday and attacking from the west and the south, said the Britain-based Observatory, which has a wide network of sources inside Syria.
“The capture of the headquarters will allow the jihadists to advance on the border post with Turkey to the north of the town,” Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said.
“If they achieve that, they will have the Kurdish forces inside Kobane completely surrounded,” he added.
If Kobane falls, thousands of people could be massacred, a United Nations envoy warned.
Addressing a press conference in Geneva, UN envoy Staffan de Mistura said Kobane could suffer the same fate as the Bosnian town of Srebrenica, where 8,000 Muslims were killed by Serbs in 1995.
He stressed that if the city falls into the hands of the IS militants, up to 700 people who remain in the city and possibly the 12,000 civilians seeking refuge outside the city “will most likely be massacred” if the militants are successful in their advance.
“Do you remember Srebrenica? We do. We never forgot and probably we never forgave ourselves,” said de Mistura, the UN peace envoy for Syria. “When there is an imminent threat to civilians, we cannot, we should not, be silent.”
The plight of mainly Kurdish Kobane has unleashed the worst street violence in years in Turkey, which has 15 million Kurds of its own. Turkish Kurds have risen up since Tuesday against President Tayyip Erdogan’s government, which they accuse of allowing their kin to be slaughtered.
At least 31 people have been killed in three days of riots and street violence across the mainly Kurdish southeast, including two police officers shot dead in an apparent attempt to assassinate a police chief. The police chief was wounded.
Intense fighting between Islamic State fighters and outgunned Kurdish forces in the streets of Kobani could be heard from across the border. Warplanes roared overhead and the western edge of town was hit by an air strike, apparently by US-led coalition jets which have intensified a campaign against Islamic State targets around Kobane.