Islamic State militants shelled a beleaguered Syrian Kurdish town near the Turkish border on Sunday, sending pillars of smoke billowing into the sky as Kurdish militiamen scrambled to repel the extremists' offensive, activists said.
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The Islamic State group has pushed to the outskirts of the town of Kobani, also known as Ayn Arab, as it presses its weeks-long offensive against the town and its surrounding villages. The assault has forced some 160,000 people to flee across the frontier in one of the biggest single exoduses of Syria's civil war.
The Islamic State group has continued to advance despite airstrikes against its fighters by the U.S. and its Arab allies. Overnight, coalition strikes targeted militant positions around Kobani, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights activist group.
Those strikes, combined with heavy clashes on the ground overnight, left at least 16 militants and 11 Kurdish fighters dead, it said.
On Sunday, the extremists, who have staked out positions to the east, west and south of Kobani, shelled the town with rockets, mortars and tank shells, the Observatory said. There was also heavy fighting for control of a strategic hill south of town.
From the Turkish side of the border, the heavy thud of the shelling could be heard, along with the sharp crackle of small arms fire, while pillars of smoke billowed from inside Kobani.