Islamic State attacks Kobani, Hasaka

In the early morning hours Thursday a convoy of Islamic State vehicles, disguised as Free Syrian Army (FSA) aligned, entered Kobani and launched a vicious attack targeting random civilians and assassination of a local military leader.

“They opened fire randomly on everyone they found,” YPG spokesperson Redur Xelil told Reuters. The Observatory said the attackers also wore YPG uniforms. He said Kurdish fighters killed 30 of the attackers. Pictures posted on social media showed at least one dead man in uniform who was said to be an Islamic State fighter.

The Observatory said at least 35 people, most of them civilians, were killed in the attacks, as well as 20 or more Kurdish civilians in a village south of Kobani. A YPG Facebook page said at least 15 Islamic State fighters had been killed.

A doctor in the town, Welat Omer, said 15 people had been killed and 70 wounded, many of them seriously. Some had lost limbs and some of the wounded had been taken to Turkey.

The attack comes on the heels of the latest execution video released by the sophisticated IS media outfit.

Kobani had been the site of the fiercest fighting yet between IS and the Kurdish YPG, backed up by U.S. led coalition air bombardment. Quentin Sommerville, Mideast correspondent for the BBC, said in the aftermath of the attack:

Kobane still matters to IS. It was never important strategically, but this latest attack shows that its loss, after five months of heavy street-to-street fighting and coalition aerial bombardment, still hurts IS.

Despite the narrative of the last few weeks, IS is far from being on the back foot.

The narrative Sommerville cited arises from significant loss of IS territory in Western Syria to YPG and FSA forces. YPG units have reached within 50 km of the capitol of the IS “caliphate” of Raqqa, a former provincial capital in Basher al-Assad’s regime.

A Syrian battalion commander was unsuccessfully targeted for assassination:

One of the targets of the attack appeared to be the leader of the main Syrian rebel battalion fighting alongside the Kurds, according to Abu Shujaa, a spokesman for the battalion, Thuwar al-Raqqa, or Raqqa Revolutionaries. During the attack, Kurdish-speaking assailants in Kurdish uniforms went to the home of the leader, known as Abu Issa, asked for him and then opened fire, wounding six of his female relatives, Abu Shujaa said.

Simultaneous to the Kobani attack IS attacked Assad forces in the Northeast at the city of Hasaka and “mostly moderate” rebels attacked Deraa:

The dual assaults on government forces in Hasaka and Deraa, both provincial capitals, are a test of Assad’s resolve to hold out in remote outposts beyond the western part of the country that is seen as the top priority for his survival.

Islamic State said it had seized al-Nashwa district and neighboring areas in the southwest of Hasaka, a city divided into zones of government and Kurdish control. Government forces had withdrawn towards the city center, it said in a statement.

Syrian state TV said Islamic State was expelling residents from their homes in al-Nashwa, executing people and detaining them. Many Islamic State fighters had been killed, it said, included a commander identified as a Tunisian.

It also said a car bomb had exploded in the southeast of Hasaka.

IS often utilizes simultaneous attacks as a means to split potential close air support and create confusion in the organized command and control structure. Additionally their main military prowess is evident in surprise attacks aided by captured former U.S. vehicles and dispersal of waves of suicide bombers.

Despite their name, there is no reason to believe IS could ever form nor govern an actual functioning state. The leader of their “caliphate”, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, is thought to be paralyzed and probably dying in Raqqa from wounds sustained in a coalition air strike back in January. Other top leaders of IS–Haji Bakr and Abu Ali al-Afri–have also been killed by U.S. air strikes.

[Reuters][BBC][Long War Journal][Washington Post]