There is mixed news from the two fronts in Iraq and Syria where coalition airpower and indigenous partner forces on the ground are fighting Islamic State militants.
Near the Syrian border city of Kobani, reports indicate that Kurdish defenders are beginning to make some gains as they continue to defend the city against the ISIS onslaught. A key hill atop which ISIS fighters famously planted their flag late last week has reportedly been retaken by Kurdish forces.
“The advance came as the US said it had conducted 21 air strikes near the town, slowing down the IS advance,” the BBC revealed. “Tall Shair hill had been captured more than 10 days ago by IS militants.”
As ISIS retreated from the front near the Syrian-Turkish border, Kurdish forces made a series of gruesome discoveries.
“Refugees in Suruc, Turkey, have told how relatives and neighbors were beheaded by [ISIS] militants, while another spoke of how he had seen ‘hundreds’ of decapitated corpses in the besieged town,” The Independent reported on Tuesday.
Amin Fajar (38) a father-of-four who left Kobane and made it across the border and into Suruc, told a British newspaper: “I have seen tens, maybe hundreds, of bodies with their heads cut off.
“Others with just their hands or legs missing. I have seen faces with their eyes or tongues cut out – I can never forget it for as long as I live.”
The Daily Telegraph confirmed The Independent’s reporting about the activities in which ISIS engaged in the areas under their control:
“I have seen tens, maybe hundreds, of bodies with their heads cut off. Others with just their hands or legs missing. I have seen faces with their eyes or tongues cut out — I can never forget it for as long as I live,” Amin Fajar, a 38-year-old father of four, told the Daily Mail about the incredible scene in Kobane.
“They put the heads on display to scare us all.”
Another resident, 13-year-old Dillyar, watched as his cousin Mohammed, 20, was captured and beheaded by the black-clad jihadis as the pair tried to flee the battle-scarred town.
“They pushed him to the ground and sawed his head off, shouting, ‘Allahu Akbar,’ ” the boy said. “I see it in my dreams every night and every morning I wake up and remember everything.”
This unconfirmed video featuring Kurdish fighters in Kobani, flagged by Jeff Gauvin, reveals the extent of the damage done to the city over the course of weeks of fighting.
While America’s partners on the ground are enjoying some successes in Syria, the dispatches from Iraq are far more grim.
There, ISIS continues its siege on Anbar province in preparation for an assault on the capital city of Baghdad. After taking control of a military training base on Monday, CNN reported that ISIS has surrounded one of the largest Iraqi airbases in the country on Tuesday and is preparing to take it.
“According to police sources,” CNN’s Ben Wedeman reported, “the Ayman Asad Airbase, which is about 110 miles to the west of Baghdad – one of the biggest bases in Anbar province – is now surrounded by ISIS fighters, and the people on the base are expecting an attack within the coming hours on that base.”
“We understand that there are Iraqi soldiers who have already fled the base,” Wedeman continued. “We were getting reports for several hours that some of the soldiers had left, shedding their uniforms, leaving their weapons behind.”
That depressing revelation should concern military advisors who believe Iraqi forces defending Baghdad can hold out against an ISIS assault on Baghdad despite outnumbering the attackers by a reported six-to-one ratio. These latest developments reinforce the position of Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno who said with some trepidation recently he was only “somewhat” confident Baghdad could hold out.