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ISIS in Kobani – Islamic state or empire?

THE LEVANT – By Patrick Cockburn – Isis is close to capturing the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani, just a short distance from the Turkish border, after a three-week siege in which US air strikes turned out to be ineffective in preventing Isis winning an important victory.

With Isis fighters also making advances into western Baghdad, which may allow them to close the city’s airport with artillery fire, President Obama’s strategy of containing the Islamic militants in Iraq and Syria is in ruins.

Kurdish militiamen are battling to stop Isis capturing Kobani, but a Kurdish spokesman in the city was quoted as saying that the town “will certainly fall soon”. Fighting has reached the eastern outskirts of Kobani where Isis fighters raised their black flag over one building at the entrance to the town.

Earlier the Kurds claimed a success when they drove Isis fighters from high ground overlooking the city called Mishtenur hill, but they appear to have lost it again. Some 3,000 civilians are believed still to be in Kobani, while 160,000 of its people have already fled.

A Kurdish female fighter called Deilar Kanj Khamis, better known by her military name, Arin Mirkan, blew herself up in the course of the fighting on Sunday, killing 10 jihadists. She had stayed behind as Kurdish forces withdrew and mingled with the attackers before detonating explosives.

The battle for Kobani has united Kurds across the region who see it as their version of the battle of Thermopylae, with their heroic soldiers fighting to the end against Isis forces superior in numbers and armed with heavier weapons.

Isis is using tanks and artillery it seized from the Iraqi and Syrian armies when it overran their bases during the summer.

Isis forces have also captured Hit in Anbar province and parts of the provincial capital Ramadi.

n Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) flag flies on the hill above the town of Kobani (Getty)

The successful advance of the militants shows that the Iraqi army is little more capable of resisting Isis than when it lost Mosul and Tikrit in June.

The ability of Isis to resume offensive operations may also be a sign that the effectiveness of US air power, without highly trained observers on the ground to call in air strikes, is limited when used against well-led forces.

A veteran Kurdish leader, Omar Sheikhmous, said that Isis “is saying that ‘we can still win victories on the ground’ and the capture of Kobani will give them complete control over territory stretching from Mosul to Aleppo.”

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