21 Sep 2014

Kurdish Fighters From Turkey Head To Syria To Fend Off ISIS Attack

Hundreds of Kurdish fighters raced from Turkey and Iraq into neighboring Syria on Saturday to defend a Kurdish area under attack by Islamic State militants. As the fighting raged, more than 60,000 mostly Kurdish refugees streamed across the dusty and barren border into Turkey, some hobbling on crutches as others lugged bulging sacks of belongings on their backs.

Syrian Kurds cross the border under the watch of Turkish forces

The large-scale displacement of so many and the movement of the Kurdish fighters into Syria reflected the ferocity of the fighting in the northern Kobani area, which borders Turkey. Militants of the extremist Islamic State group have been barreling through the area for the past three days, prompting Kurdish leaders to plead for international help. Civilians seeking safety began massing on the Turkish border on Thursday. Turkey did not let them in at first, saying it would provide them with aid on the Syrian side of the border instead. By Friday, it had changed its mind and started to let in several thousand.

Turkish policemen

The numbers grew quickly as more entry points opened, and by late Saturday afternoon, more than 60,000 had poured across the frontier, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said. Even by the standards of Syria's bitter war, it was unusual for so many refugees to flee in such a short time. Their numbers add to the 2.8 million Syrians who have become refugees in the past three years, and another 6.4 million who have been displaced within their own country — nearly half of Syria's pre-war population of 23 million.

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