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Peshmerga fighters leave Kobani to return later

By Elena Becatoros Associated Press

Suruc, Turkey — The 10 peshmerga fighters from Iraq who entered the embattled northern Syrian town of Kobani one day earlier returned to Turkey Friday to prepare for their forces’ full deployment, a Kurdish official in Kobani said.

The official, Anwar Muslim, said the 10 discussed defensive positions and strategy against the Islamic State group with the town’s Kurdish defenders. All 150 peshmerga fighters are supposed to depart from Turkey for Kobani later Friday, Muslim said.

The hope is that the Iraqi Kurdish fighters will help reverse gains by Islamic State militants who have captured parts of the town as well as dozens of nearby villages.

The expected peshmerga deployment, accompanied by 50 members of the Free Syrian Army, was condemned by Syria’s government as an act of Turkish aggression and a “blatant violation of Syrian sovereignty.”

Muslim told The Associated Press by telephone from Kobani that “zero hour hasn’t been decided yet, but it will be today.”

Muslim’s comments came as the U.S. Central Command said American warplanes conducted four airstrikes near Kobani damaging four Islamic State fighting positions and one building occupied by the group.

Muslim and the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Kurdish fighters in Kobani fought heavy battles with the Islamic State group that launched an offensive in the town six weeks ago.

“We have 10 martyrs in the past 24 hours,” Muslim said, adding that corpses of Muslim militants are on their ground and they can’t pick them up.

Islamic State militants launched the attack on Kobani in mid-September, capturing dozens of Kurdish villages in addition to parts of the border town. More than 200,000 people have fled to Turkey and more than 800 people have died, activists say.