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U.N. Envoy To Syria Pleads For Action To Save Kobani


The United Nation's envoy for Syria has issued an urgent plea for action to keep the Syrian town of Kobani from falling to ISIS fighters. The envoy, Staffan de Mistura, warned that if the town does fall, thousands of Kurdish fighters and civilians will likely be massacred. We have more from NPR's Alice Fordham.

ALICE FORDHAM, BYLINE: Just a mile or two over the border in Turkey, activists from the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani say they fear they're watching its final fall. One is Merwan Osman Ismail. We reached him by Skype.

MERWAN OSMAN ISMAIL: The heavy crashes is happening now. They're specially using artillery's and tanks to bomb from afar and thousands of bombs are falling on the city now. And the city of Kobani is full of smokes.

FORDHAM: More than 170,000 people have fled Kobani and the surrounding villages, in recent weeks, as the Islamic State has trained its considerable firepower on the northern Syrian area. Why is it so important? Ismail explains that if the Islamic State takes Kobani, they control a long stretch along the Turkish border and get an easier supply route.

ISMAIL: So they're trying to control the city, to control the whole border of Turkey and to make strategies to smuggle in artillery's.

FORDHAM: Of course, there has been a response by the U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State. There have been more airstrikes around Kobani than on almost any other target. Some think that's made a difference. We Skyped with an activist, Nizar Mistefa, also just over the Turkish border.

NIZAR MISTEFA: (Foreign language spoken).

FORDHAM: He says the airstrikes are helping a lot. Plus, he reckons the Islamic State is at a disadvantage in urban fighting, as they don't know the town. Still, he says, the extremists are now in the center of the center and control the headquarters of the Kurdish fighters. The Kurds are fighting the heavily armed militants with worn out guns and say their town is all but broken. Government water and electricity have long been cut off. Medical supplies are low and estimates of the number of civilians left very. The U.N. thinks there's 700 there but activists on the ground reckon there's only a few dozen. Alice Fordham, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Alice Fordham is an NPR International Correspondent based in Beirut, Lebanon.