ARBIL Iraq (Reuters) - The president of Iraq’s Kurdistan region urged the international community on Friday to “use every means” to protect the city of Kobani in neighboring Syria from an impending attack by Islamic State militants.
Islamic State fighters are besieging Kobani, also known as Ayn al-Arab, after seizing at least 21 surrounding villages in a major assault against the predominantly Kurdish city on Syria’s northern border with Turkey.
Several thousand Kurds began crossing from Syria into Turkey on Friday, fearing the attack.
“I call on the international community to use every means as soon as possible to protect Kobani,” said Masoud Barzani, the president of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region in a statement. “IS terrorists... must be hit and destroyed wherever they are.”
Kurds in Syria have taken advantage of the civil war to carve out a region of their own in the country’s northeast, fending off attacks by IS militants who have proclaimed an Islamic caliphate straddling the border with Iraq.
The United States launched air strikes in Iraq last month when IS militants threatened the Kurdish region’s capital Arbil, and President Barack Obama has also authorized surveillance flights over Syria.
Reporting by Isabel Coles; Editing by Tom Heneghan