BEIRUT- The Islamic State group is locked in a war of attrition in the Syrian border town of Kobane, where Kurdish fighters backed by US-led air strikes are mounting fierce resistance.
Two months after IS launched a major offensive to try to capture the strategic prize on the Turkish frontier, the jihadists have failed to defeat the town’s Kurdish defenders.
“Several weeks ago, it looked like Kobane would fall, but it is now clear that it will not,” said Romain Caillet, a French expert on jihadist movements.
“IS controls more than half of the town but is unable to advance further,” he told AFP.
Buoyed by a string of victories in Syria and Iraq, IS launched a major offensive on September 16 to seize Kobane and expand its self-proclaimed Islamic “caliphate”.
The jihadists believed they would quickly conquer the small town in northern Syria, which was little known to the outside world before the deadly fighting broke out.
Even the United States and Turkey warned in October that the town was teetering on the brink.
IS took over dozens of villages surrounding Kobane, known in Arabic as Ain al-Arab, besieging the town’s Kurdish fighters.
On October 6, the jihadists reached the gates of Kobane, triggering panic among civilians.
Tens of thousands fled across the border into Turkey in fear of the reputed brutality of the IS fighters.
The jihadists, equipped with advanced weaponry seized from Iraqi and Syrian troops, then fought their way into central Kobane.
But their advance has since faltered in the face of fierce Kurdish resistance and US-led bombings on IS targets.
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, more than 600 jihadists and nearly 370 Kurdish fighters have died in the battle for Kobane.
The fighting also killed around 24 civilians in Kobane, which used to be home to around 150,000 people, most of them Kurds.
IS “now faces a war of attrition that is costing it more than its Kurdish adversaries”, said Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the Britain-based Observatory.
Kurdish forces on Wednesday cut off a key supply route used by the jihadists, according to the Observatory, which monitors the war in Syria through a network of local sources.