Islamic State fighting forces 180,000 to flee Iraq - UN

Thirty killed in three bombings in Baghdad while fighting rages in Kobani

Smoke rises following an air strike by the US-led coalition aircraft in the Syrian town of Kobani, near the border with Turkey, during fighting between Syrian Kurds and Islamic State  militants  yesterday. Photograph: Gokhan Sahin/Getty Images

Smoke rises following an air strike by the US-led coalition aircraft in the Syrian town of Kobani, near the border with Turkey, during fighting between Syrian Kurds and Islamic State militants yesterday. Photograph: Gokhan Sahin/Getty Images

 

Fighting in Iraq’s western Anbar province has forced up to 180,000 people to flee since the city of Hit fell to Islamic State (IS) earlier this month, according to the United Nations.

IS fighters extended that advance by over-running a military base the Iraqi army had abandoned 8km west of Hit, according to an army officer and members of a government-backed Sunni militia.

IS has been on the offensive in the desert province of Anbar, bordering Syria, in recent weeks, taking the town of Hit and nearby Kubaisa. As a result of air strikes, by the Iraqi government and a US-led military coalition, up to 30,000 families have fled Hit.

In Baghdad, three bombs exploded in Shi’ite parts of the capital yesterday, killing 30 people, police and medical officials said, continuing a wave of attacks targeting Iraq’s majority religious group.

There was no claim of responsibility for the bombings, but IS claimed a string of attacks in Baghdad on Sunday that left 45 dead.

Meanwhile, fighting raged on in Kobani, near the Turkish border with Syria, where three IS fighters blew themselves up yesterday, according to a monitoring group, with the hardline militants making slight advances inside the besieged Kurdish town.

In one of the attacks an IS fighter detonated a truck laden with explosives in a northern district of Kobani, which has been the scene of heavy clashes between Kurdish forces and IS fighters, Kurdish sources said.

Iris Nassan said two Kurdish fighters had been wounded during the suicide attack. “They tried to advance towards the [border] crossing, but the [Kurdish] People’s Protection Units repelled them and they were not able to push forward,” he told Reuters.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group reported more heavy fighting yesterday inside the city, where US-led air strikes have so far failed to halt the militants’ advance.

Rami Abderahman of the Observatory said one of the suicide attacks targeted a bus station in the northwest of Kobani and the group had taken around 50 per cent of the town.

“They now control the cultural centre, which means they have advanced further inside the town,” he said. Clashes also continued to the east, killing a dozen Islamic State fighters, the Observatory said.

In a blow to US hopes, Turkey denied it had agreed to let the US use its Incirlik air base in the fight against IS, and sources at the Turkish prime minister’s office said talks were continuing on the subject.

Turkey had however reached an agreement with Washington on training Syrian rebels, sources told reporters, without saying who would train the insurgents or where.

The comments come after US National Security Adviser Susan Rice said Turkey had agreed to let forces from a US-led military coalition use its bases for activities inside Iraq and Syria and to train moderate Syrian rebels.

– (Reuters)