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Syrian Kurds repulse Islamic State attack on border gate

MURSITPINAR Turkey (Reuters) - Islamic State militants tried to seize a border post in the Syrian town of Kobani on the Turkish frontier overnight but were repulsed by Kurdish fighters, Kurdish officials and a monitoring group said on Sunday.

Kurdish refugees from Kobani watch as thick smoke covers the Syrian town of Kobani during fighting between Islamic State and Kurdish Peshmerga forces, as seen from the Mursitpinar crossing on the Turkish-Syrian border in Sanliurfa province October October 26, 2014. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis

Islamic State fighters have been trying to capture Kobani, known as Ayn al-Arab in Arabic, for over a month, pressing their assault despite U.S.-led air strikes on their positions and the deaths of hundreds of their fighters.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors violence in Syria’s three-and-a-half-year-old conflict, said on Sunday it had confirmed that 815 people had been killed in the fighting for the town over the last 40 days, more than half of them Islamic State fighters.

Idris Nassan, a local Kurdish official, said Islamic State fighters had shelled Kobani’s border gate on Saturday night but Kurdish fighters had pushed them back in the south and west.

“Of course they will try again tonight. Last night they brought new reinforcements, new supplies, and they are pushing hard,” he said.

To lose the border gate, the only official way for the Kurdish fighters in Kobani to cross into Turkey, would be a major blow to the fighters defending the town as well as the civilians who still remain.

On Sunday, Turkish police dispersed media and other observers from two hills overlooking Kobani, a Reuters witness said. There were two air strikes in the early afternoon and dark grey smoke hung in plumes over the city, which has been largely destroyed by the war.

Iraqi Kurdish “peshmerga” fighters are expected to arrive to reinforce the fighters in Kobani, who are mostly members of the Syrian Kurdish YPG armed group, after Turkey last week said it would allow them to pass through its territory.

The chief of staff to the president of Iraqi Kurdistan said on Sunday that the timetable for their departure was still being finalised.

The Observatory said it had confirmed that 302 YPG fighters had so far been killed in the fighting for Kobani so far, as well as 481 Islamic State fighters, 10 fighters from other groups, 21 civilians, and one volunteer bringing ammunition to YPG fighters.

Dara Abdi, a lawyer working for a human rights organization sympathetic to the PYD, said one YPG fighter had been killed and seven wounded in the fight for the border post overnight.

Additional reporting by Kai Pfaffenbach; Writing by Alexander Dziadosz and Dasha Afanasieva; Editing by Kevin Liffey