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Kurdish Protesters Killed In Turkey Amid Calls To Save Kobani

Kurdish protesters set fire to a barricade set up to block the street as they clash with riot police in Diyarbakir, Turkey, on Wednesday.
Kurdish protesters set fire to a barricade set up to block the street as they clash with riot police in Diyarbakir, Turkey, on Wednesday.

Updated at 1:15 p.m. ET

At least a dozen people have been killed as Kurds protest across Turkey demanding that the government do more to break the siege of the Syrian border town of Kobani.

For days, Turkish tanks have deployed to the border within sight of the fighting between the self-declared Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, and the the Kurdish People's Protection Committee, or the Syrian Kurdish militant group known as the YPG.

Al-Jazeera reports on the clashes between protesters and police in Turkey:

"Police fired tear gas and water cannon to disperse protesters who burnt cars and tyres as they took to the streets mainly in Turkey's predominantly Kurdish eastern and southeastern provinces late on Tuesday.

"Earlier, Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had warned that Kobane was about to fall into the hands of ISIL.

"Clashes also erupted in the capital Ankara and in the country's biggest city, Istanbul, where almost 100 people were detained and 30 people were injured, including eight police officers, the Istanbul Governorship said in a news release early on Wednesday."

Elsewhere, there have been Kurdish protests in Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands. In Brussels "about 50 protesters smashed a glass door and pushed past police to get into the European Parliament. Once inside, some protesters were received by Parliament President Martin Schulz, who promised to discuss the Kurds' plight with NATO and EU leaders," according to The Associated Press.

Meanwhile, several Syrian human rights groups called on the world to save Kobani from ISIS as new U.S.-led airstrikes targeted the extremists near the town Wednesday, The AP reports.

Even so, Syrian Kurds are reportedly holding back ISIS forces, according to The Guardian, which describes "street-to-street fighting" in the city, but quotes a resident as saying "Kurdish fighters who live in the area have the upper hand." The newspaper says:

"The resident, Mahmoud, described seeing Isis fighters in the streets looking relaxed and walking around freely. But, he said, those who had entered so casually were soon killed by Kurdish fighters with superior knowledge of sites throughout the city for guerilla-style fighting. More militants soon took their place, however."

Alison Meuse, reporting for NPR from Beirut, Lebanon, says ISIS detonated a suicide car bomb in the center of Kobani for the first time since the fighting in and around the town began.

She spoke with Marwan Ismail, an activist in Kobani, who says that concentrated airstrikes today had allowed Kurdish forces to push Islamic State militants about a half-mile out of the city.

Another Kobani-based Kurdish activist, Mustafa Ebdi, tells NPR of street fights in the south and east of the city.

"The coalition strikes hit ISIS in the center of the city," he says.

NPR's Peter Kenyon tells Morning Edition that "one reason for the protests is that Kurds have been basically told by their leaders to go help the Syrian Kurds across in Kobani who are fighting ISIS, but the Turkish border guards aren't letting them go. He adds:

"Kobani is so close to the border that people can literally watch it begin to fall. They can't do anything to help, and the anger after these deaths, especially, is only likely to grow.

"If you step back from the conspiracy theories that Ankara is happy to see its longtime Kurdish enemies weakened, then a couple of things stand out: First, the Syrian Kurds don't want Turkish tanks in their territory any more than the Turks want to be there — they've been fighting for too long, at least some Kurds and Turks.

"The second thing is that the arguments against ground intervention in Syria at all are as compelling as ever. For years, Turkey has been calling for safe zones, no-fly zones, areas where Syrians can be safe without becoming refugees."

In Iraq, Islamic State militants reportedly shot down an Iraqi military attack helicopter, killing the pilot and co-pilot.

According to the AP, two Iraqi officials said Islamic State militants fired a shoulder-launched missile at the Bell 407 helicopter, which crashed about 130 miles north of Baghdad.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.
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