Several days of heavy air strikes by US warplanes have helped Syrian-Kurdish fighters regain ground against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant armed group in the Syrian border town of Kobane.
Heavy and light weapons fire were audible from across the border in Turkey on Thursday, with one stray mortar hitting Turkish soil close to abandoned tents, the Reuters news agency reported.
Earlier on Thursday, the US said that even though its string of aerial attacks had killed several hundred ISIL fighters, the town could still fall to the armed group.
Air strikes on Wednesday and Thursday appear to have slowed the group’s advances, but “the security situation on the ground in Kobane remains tenuous,” the US Defence Department said in a statement.
A Kurdish commander told the BBC that ISIL fighters had retreated from all areas except two pockets in the east of the town.
ISIL has also been beaten back this week from Amriyat al-Fallujah, a key city just west of Baghdad, as US military denied that the Iraqi capital was in “imminent” danger.
The US said it had held direct talks in Paris over the weekend with the main Syrian Kurdish group whose forces have been battling ISIL. Officials added that they were yet to discuss arming the fighters.
Kurdish spokesmen said their forces were giving coordinates of ISIL targets to the US and its coalition partners.
Idris Nassen, a Kurdish official in Kobane, said: “We need more air strikes, as well as weaponry and ammunition to fight them on the ground.”
Losses on both sides
Kurdish forces have suffered heavy losses since ISIL launched its offensive on the Kobane area in mid-September, but the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said that ISIL had suffered big losses too.
As of Wednesday, ground clashes alone had killed 662 people since September 16, including 20 civilians, the Observatory said.
ISIL lost 374 of its fighters, while 268 people have been killed fighting on the Kurdish side, according to the Britain-based monitor.
It also reported that Kurdish forces killed at least 20 ISIL fighters on Wednesday west of Ras al-Ayn, another Syrian city on the border to the east of Kobane.
An estimated 200,000 mainly Kurdish Syrians have fled to Turkey.
The US said on Thursday that talks between military officials from the two countries had gone “very, very well” after trying to persuade Ankara to take an active role in the campaign.