BEIRUT: Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) fighters killed at least 145 civilians in an attack on the Syrian town of Kobane and a nearby village, in what a monitoring group described on Friday as the second worst massacre carried out by the hardline group in Syria.
ISIS fighters who infiltrated the town at the Turkish border on Thursday continued deadly assault on the town for the second day, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group and a Kurdish official said.
A separate ISIS assault on government-held areas of the northeastern city of Hasaka was reported to have forced 60,000 people to flee their homes, the United Nations said, warning as many as 200,000 people may eventually try to flee.
ISIS has a record of conducting large scale killings of civilians in territory it captures in both Iraq and Syria, where it has proclaimed a caliphate to rule over all Muslims according to an ultra-hardline vision of Islam.
The attack on the predominantly Kurdish town of Kobane and the nearby village of Brakh Bootan marked the biggest single massacre of civilians by ISIS in Syria since it killed hundreds of members of the Sunni Sheitaat tribe last year, Rami Abdulrahman, who runs the Observatory, said.
He said 146 civilians had been killed. Kurdish officials said at least 145 had died.
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 jihadists 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 fellow rebels 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 told AFP.
“When they entered the town, the rebels took up positions in buildings at the southeast and southwest entrances, firing at everything that moved.” Local journalist Mostafa Ali said that there was no military dimension to the ISIS assault on Kobane.
“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 told AFP. The jihadist group also executed 26 civilians in a village outside Kobane on Thursday, the Observatory said.
“Every family in Kobane lost a family member on Thursday,” Kurdish activist Arin Shekhmos said.
In their other assault on Friday, ISIS fighters clashed with Syrian government forces in the south of Hasaka for a second day and shells hit areas in the center, the Observatory said.
It appeared that ISIS was also fanning out towards the southeast of the city, which is divided into zones run separately by the Syrian government and a Kurdish administration that oversees the YPG.
The twin attacks which began on Thursday showed the rebels returning to the offensive after two weeks of defeats at the hands of Kurdish-led forces. Earlier this week the Kurds advanced to within 50 km of Raqqa city, the de facto capital of ISISs self-declared caliphate.
In Hasaka the ISIS targets were in areas controlled by President Bashar al-Assad. The U.S.-led coalition, which has been bombing ISIS targets in both Syria and Iraq since last year, has ruled out cooperating with Damascus.
Recent weeks have seen momentum shift repeatedly in the battle against ISIS. The fighters advanced rapidly last month, seizing cities in Syria and Iraq, before the recent Kurdish advances in Syria. ISIS fighters have often adopted a tactic of attacking elsewhere when they lose ground.
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