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Iraqi Kurds Sending Fighters to Kobani 10/22 12:01

   IRBIL, Iraq (AP) -- Lawmakers in Iraq's largely autonomous Kurdish region 
voted Wednesday to authorize sending Kurdish fighters known as peshmerga to 
help defend the embattled town of Kobani in Syria, where fellow Kurds are 
facing an onslaught by militants of the Islamic State group.

   Kurdish officials said an unspecified number of fighters would be sent 
through Turkey to support their ethnic brethren in a battle playing out just 
across the Turkish border. The fight has grabbed the world's attention and 
triggered sympathy for the outgunned Kurds.

   Anwar Muslim, a Kobani-based senior Kurdish official, praised the decision, 
saying "all help is welcome." He said there seemed to be a solidifying 
international push to help Kobani combat the militants.

   As details of the deployment were being worked out, Turkish President Recep 
Tayyip Erdogan said the United States made a mistake in airdropping weapons to 
Kurdish fighters in Kobani earlier this week because some of the weapons ended 
up in IS hands.

   "It turns out that what was done was wrong," he said, according to Turkey's 
private Dogan news agency.

   The Pentagon confirmed Wednesday that IS militants were able to seize one of 
the 28 bundles of weapons and medical supplies intended for Kurdish fighters. 
Col. Steve Warren said it appears the wind caused the parachute to go off 
course, and that the weapons in the bundle were not enough to give the enemy 
any type of advantage.

   Activists said Tuesday that the Islamic militants seized a small part of the 
airdrop. A video uploaded by a media group loyal to the Islamic State group 
showed it included hand grenades, ammunition and rocket-propelled grenade 
launchers.

   The caches were airdropped early Monday to Kurds in embattled Kobani. 
Differences about how to defend Kobani have sparked tensions between Turkey and 
its NATO partners.

   The vote by Kurdish lawmakers comes two days after Turkey said it would help 
Iraqi Kurdish fighters cross into Syria to support their brethren defending the 
town. Turkey in recent years has built friendly ties with the leadership of the 
largely autonomous Iraqi Kurdish region.

   Still, it was unprecedented for Turkey to promise to give Kurds passage to 
fight in Syria.

   Ankara views the main Syrian Kurdish military force fighting IS militants 
--- the People's Protection Units, or YPG --- as an extension of the Kurdistan 
Workers' Party, or PKK. That group has waged a 30-year insurgency in Turkey and 
is designated a terrorist group by the U.S. and NATO.

   Peshmerga spokesman Halgurd Hekmat in Irbil said Wednesday there is still a 
lot of uncertainty on the details of the deployment, including how many forces 
will be sent and when.

   "We're sending the peshmerga, not to become YPG but to fight alongside the 
YPG," Hekmat said. "We will send the peshmerga to do their job for as long as 
they're needed and to come back after that."

   Hekmat said Iraqi forces will also provide weapons, but he did not say what 
kind.

   Turkey is under pressure to take greater action against the IS militants --- 
not only from the West but also from Kurds in Syria and inside Turkey who 
accuse Ankara of standing by while their people are slaughtered. Earlier this 
month across Turkey, widespread protests threatened to derail promising talks 
to end the PKK insurgency.

   Sunni extremists of the Islamic State group, which has rampaged across Iraq 
and Syria, have been attacking Kobani for a month. The U.S. and its allies are 
assisting the Kurds by conducting airstrikes targeting IS infrastructure in and 
around the town. Earlier this week, the U.S. air dropped weapons and other 
assistance to the Kurds for the first time.

   Also Wednesday, Syria's information minister claimed the Syrian air force 
destroyed two of three jets seized and reportedly test flown over Aleppo by the 
Islamic State group last week.

   Omran al-Zoubi told Syrian TV late Tuesday that Syrian aircraft bombed the 
jets on the runway as they landed at Jarrah airbase.

   The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights earlier had reported 
that IS militants flew three MiG fighter jets over the Jarraj air base with the 
help of former Iraqi air force pilots who were now members of the militant 
group. The report could not be independently confirmed, and U.S. officials said 
they had no reports of the militants flying jets.

   The group is known to have seized fighter jets from at least one air base it 
captured from the Syrian army in Raqqa province earlier this year. Militant 
websites had posted photos of IS fighters with the warplanes, but it was 
unclear if they were operational.


(KA)


 
 
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