Syria Providing Military Support to Kurds in Battle Against ISIS, Local Media Says

Move means Assad and his western opponents are backing the same forces against the Islamist militants. Kurds deny cooperation with Assad government.

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Thousand of Kurds protest against Islamic State attack on Syrian city of Kobani, in Duesseldorf, Germany, October 11, 2014.
Thousand of Kurds protest against Islamic State attack on Syrian city of Kobani, in Duesseldorf, Germany, October 11, 2014. Credit: AP

Damascus has provided military support to Kurdish forces to help them battle Islamic State, Syrian media have reported. The move would mean President Bashar Assad and his Western enemies could be backing the same forces against Islamist militants.

The main Syrian Kurdish party, which has repeatedly denied that it has cooperated with the Damascus government, described the report as propaganda.

Assad has mostly left the Syrian Kurds to their own devices and ceded control of some Kurdish areas in Syria to Kurdish militants while focusing his firepower on insurgents fighting to unseat him.

Kurds in Syria complain of years of marginalization under Assad but also fear Sunni Muslim militants.

An October 27 report from the state news agency SANA denied a claim, which it said some Kurdish members of the Syrian government had made, that Damascus was not helping Syrian Kurds besieged by Islamic State, the most powerful anti-Assad militant group.

"The support provided by the government to Syrian Kurds is known and documented and comprehensive, including military support," SANA quoted the media source as saying.

It said that the aid included direct and indirect military support but did not say which groups were recipients or when Damascus last sent military aid to Kurds.

Salih Muslim, the co-chair of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party, whose armed wing is leading the Kurdish fight against Islamic State in northern Syria, told Reuters on Monday that no support had arrived from Damascus.

"They are making such propaganda but it's not true, completely wrong," he said. "They have never done anything for Kobane," he added, referring to the Syrian border town where Kurdish fighters are besieged by Islamic State forces.

In Iraq, Kurds are one of the main Western allies against Islamic State. A week ago, the U.S. air-dropped arms to help the Kurds in Kobane.

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