Suruc: Iraqi peshmerga fighters began entering the Syrian border town of Kobani where they were expected to join the battle against Islamist militants besieging the town, activists have said.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and Kobani-based activist Mustafa Bali last night said 10 vehicles carrying Iraqi peshmerga fighters and their weapons have entered the town. They said the Iraqi Kurdish force entered from an area west of the town near the strategic Tel Shair hill.
The Observatory and Bali said it was not immediately clear how many peshmerga fighters of the force of 150 have entered Kobani.
It was not clear why the force did not enter from the main border crossing point between Kobani and Turkey although it is likely because the area is subjected to attacks by the Islamic State group fighters.
Earlier last night, journalists in the Turkish border town of Suruc saw the peshmerga force leaving the area where they had stayed for days and headed toward Kobani.
The fighters left in a convoy last night while waving Kurdish flags and giving the victory sign. As soon as the news spread in Suruc, fireworks were let off.
The peshmerga fighters came out cheering "Kobani, Kobani," while honking the horns of their vehicles and waving their rifles in the air. A line of Turkish riot policemen stood in front to prevent photographers from taking pictures of the fighters as they left.
Earlier in the day a Kurdish official blamed Ankara for the delay of the peshmerga force deployment for days.
The official with Syria's powerful Kurdish Democratic Union Party, or PYD, claimed Turkish leaders had been hoping that militants from the Islamic State group would capture the town before the Iraqi fighters entered.
"There have been so many delays and the peshmerga are not to blame. The Turks are behind the delays," he said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter. He added that attacks by IS on Kobani have increased meanwhile.
His comments illustrated the deep distrust between Syria's Kurds and Turkey. Relations between Turkey and Syria's Kurds have long been strained, in large part because Ankara believes the PYD is affiliated with the Kurdish PKK movement that has waged a long and bloody insurgency in southeast Turkey.
On October 22, lawmakers in Iraq's largely autonomous Kurdish region authorized peshmerga forces to travel to neighboring Syria and help fellow Kurds. The peshmerga fighters arrived in Turkey on Tuesday and have been staying in a facility in Suruc.