Over 60,000 Syrian Kurds flee to Turkey as ISIS militants advance
SURUC Turkey: About 60,000 Syrian Kurds have crossed
into Turkey in the past 24 hours, fleeing an advance by Islamic State militants
who have seized dozens of villages close to the border and are advancing on a
Syrian town, a deputy prime minister said on Saturday.
Turkey opened a stretch of the frontier on Friday
after Kurdish civilians fled their homes, fearing an imminent attack on the
border town of Ayn al-Arab, which is also known as Kobani. Islamic State is now
within 15 km (9 miles) of the town, a Kurdish commander on the ground said.
Islamic State’s advances in northern Syria have
prompted calls for help by the region's Kurds who fear a massacre in Kobani.
The town sits in a strategic position on the border and has prevented the
radical Sunni Muslim militants from consolidating their gains across northern
Lokman Isa, a 34-year-old farmer, said he had fled
with his family and about 30 other families after heavily-armed Islamic State
militants entered his village of Celebi. He said the Kurdish forces battling
them had only light weapons.
“They (Islamic State) have destroyed every place they
have gone to. We saw what they did in Iraq in Sinjar and we fled in fear,” he
told Reuters in the Turkish town of Suruc, where Turkish authorities were
setting up a camp.
Sitting in a field after just crossing the border,
Abdullah Shiran, a 24-year-old engineer, recounted scenes of horror in his
village of Shiran, about 10 km (six miles) from Kobani.
“IS came and attacked and we left with the women but
the rest of the men stayed behind ... They killed many people in the villages,
cutting their throats. We were terrified that they would cut our throats too,”
Turkish soldiers looked on as the refugees, many of
them women carrying bundles on their heads, streamed across. Hundreds of people
huddled in the dusty fields with their few belongings.
Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus put the
number of Syrian Kurds to have crossed the 30-km section of the border that has
been open since Friday at 60,000. Officials said many thousands were still
waiting to cross on Saturday evening.
“The United States, Turkey, Russia, friendly countries
must help us. They must bomb Islamic State. All they can do is cut off heads,
they have nothing to do with Islam,” said Mustafa Saleh, a 30 year-old water
“I would have fought to my last drop of blood against
Islamic State but I had to bring the women and children.”
Kurdish forces have evacuated at least 100 villages on
the Syrian side since the militants’ onslaught started on Tuesday.
“Islamic State sees Kobani like a lump in the body,
they think it is in their way,” said Rami Abdulrahman, who runs the Syrian
Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors Syria’s civil war.
The Islamic State has executed at least 11 Kurdish
civilians, including boys, in the villages it has seized near Kobani, the
Observatory said. More than 300 Kurdish fighters crossed into Syria from Turkey
late on Friday to help push back Islamic State, said Abdulrahman, adding it was
not clear which group the fighters belonged to.
“Islamic State is killing any civilian it finds in a
village,” Mustefa Ebdi, director of a local radio station called Arta FM, told
Reuters by telephone from the northern outskirts of Kobani. He said he could
see thousands of people waiting to cross the border into Turkey. (Reuters)