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UN envoy fears "massacre" of civilians in Kobane

The Kurdish militias in Kobane suffered a severe setback and lost their headquarters to the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group after bitter fighting. The Islamists now control 40 percent of the northern Syrian border town and are on the verge of "completely surrounding" the remaining Kurdish fighters, reported the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The UN special envoy for Syria fears a "massacre" of the encircled civilians.

There has been bitter street fighting in Kobane (Arabic: Ain al-Arab) since Monday, and the jihadists have been able to advance again and again despite international air strikes. On Thursday, they took the headquarters of the Kurdish police, which is in the same district as the command center of the People's Defense Units (YPG) and the local council.

The militarily inferior defenders of Kobane are now fighting with all their might to keep the last escape route open for the more than 10,000 civilians remaining in the city. According to the UN special envoy Staffan de Mistura, they only hold a narrow corridor to the Turkish border.

The front line is now only 1,300 meters away from the Turkish border. Although Turkey has gathered troops there, it has so far been reluctant to intervene, although Kobane will not be able to be held without the deployment of ground troops.

There were air strikes by the US-led military alliance in the south and east of the city on Friday night. But they had little effect. According to the observatory, the jihadists are now using motorbikes to avoid air strikes.

On Friday afternoon, two new air strikes were carried out on IS positions in Kobane, as an AFP correspondent reported. But according to US government circles, Washington does not consider the city to be strategically important. That is why the fight against IS has priority in Iraq, where there are more powerful helpers in the form of the Kurdish Peshmerga militia and government troops.

De Mistura called on Turkey to let Kurdish refugees back across the border so they could take part in the defense of Kobane. In addition, he urged Ankara with unusually frank words to support the international military alliance from its own territory. If Kobane is conquered by the Islamists, there is a threat of a similar "massacre" of civilians as in Srebrenica in 1995, when Bosnian-Serb militias murdered around 8,000 Muslim boys and men.

To protest against Ankara's hesitant Syria policy, thousands of Kurds took to the streets in more than 30 Turkish cities in the past few days. According to government reports, at least 31 people were killed and hundreds injured in clashes with the police, Islamists and nationalists, and over a thousand arrests were made.

"Turkey is not a country that aligns its domestic or foreign policy with the violent acts of thugs and terrorists," said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. And Turkey is also "not a country that deviates from its course for fear of street protests".

The federal government rejected demands that it had to put more pressure on Ankara than unfounded. There is "no reason" to tell the Turkish government what it "has to do or not to do," said a foreign office spokesman. He also rejected Ankara's call for a buffer zone for refugees in the border region: this would require "massive military action, probably also on the ground," for which Berlin does not see any readiness in the international community.

Meanwhile, Spain is sending around 300 military instructors to the broken country to train the Iraqi government troops in their fight against IS. The cabinet in Madrid made a corresponding decision, with Defense Minister Pedro Morenes ruling out the soldiers' direct involvement in fighting.

According to reports, ISIS jihadists executed nine prisoners in northern Iraq. In the marketplace in As-Sab alone, six villagers from the region were executed on Friday, eyewitnesses and security forces reported. The victims were accused of having participated in the preparation of a Sunni uprising against IS. According to security circles, 35 kilometers further south, three male hostages who had fought as Sunni militiamen against the Al Qaeda terrorist network years ago have been beheaded.