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Laura Smith-Spark and Mohammed Tawfeeq, CNN
(CNN) — A month of airstrikes in Syria by the U.S.-led coalition has killed 553 people — a large majority of them ISIS militants, including foreigners, according to a monitoring group.
However, at least 32 civilians were also among those killed between the start of the airstrikes on September 23 and October 22, according to the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
They included six children and five women, the group said in a statement Wednesday.
In total, 464 ISIS militants were killed, the Observatory said. The airstrikes also claimed the lives of 57 fighters from al Nusra Front, a rival Islamist group fighting in Syria.
The figures do not include any casualties in neighboring Iraq, where the coalition has also been targeting ISIS forces.
Earlier this week, U.S. airplanes dropped medical supplies and weapons into the Kurdish city of Kobani in northern Syria, where Kurdish fighters have been struggling to hold off ISIS attackers.
The Observatory said Thursday that ISIS militants have taken control of the western outskirts of Kobani, which lies on the border with Turkey.
This means they now surround Kobani from three sides: the east, west and south, it said.
Meanwhile, heavy clashes continue between Kurdish militia groups and ISIS militants in the northern part of Kobani, the group said.
Battle for hill
A Kurdish fighter and a media activist in Kobani also told CNN that ISIS militants are pushing toward the western outskirts of Kobani after attacking checkpoints manned by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, or YPG, and the Free Syrian Army.
The attacks forced them to withdraw from the strategic Tall Shair Hill area, they said.
But, they said, neither ISIS nor the YPG is able to control the western outskirts of Kobani as fighting for control of the hill rages.
Clashes also continue between ISIS and YPG fighters on the eastern outskirts of Kobani, leaving at least five Kurdish fighters dead.
ISIS militants were also killed in the clashes, but it was not immediately clear how many.
Airdropped supplies gone astray?
There had been hopes that foreign airstrikes and airdropped supplies could help Kurdish fighters turn the tide against the ISIS militants. But the onslaught has continued.
ISIS has said that at least some of the airdropped supplies made it into its fighters’ hands.
One of the 28 bundles dropped in and around Kobani on Monday drifted away from its target zone, a U.S. official said. The U.S. military said it went back and blasted it.
But a video posted on social media shows what appears to be an ISIS fighter next to a parachute bundle. He goes on to show what appears to be the contents of the bundle, including crates of hand grenades and mortar rounds.
CNN cannot independently confirm whether the items in the video are from a U.S. airdrop.
More than 100,000 refugees have fled to Turkey amid weeks of intense fighting by Kurdish forces for full control of Kobani, a town that’s one of the last in the region to resist falling to ISIS.
Friends in low places … 17-year-old Abdullah Elmir appears to have fallen in with Mohamed Elomar. Source: YouTube
THE wanted Australian terrorist Mohamed Elomar appears to have surfaced in the same Islamic State propaganda video that featured the Sydney teenage runaway dubbed the Ginger Jihadist.
Abdullah Elmir, aged 17, shocked the world on Tuesday when he delivered a depraved threat to world leaders including Tony Abbott, saying the black flag of IS would eventually fly all over the West.
The teenager left home in June after telling his parents he was going on a fishing trip.
A closer inspection of the video has caused speculation to mount about the identity of another man in the chilling video. Intelligence officers are now investigating whether the man to Elmir’s right is the notorious extremist, Elomar.
Elomar, a former boxing champion, joined IS in Syria and has appeared in many propaganda videos holding severed heads.
He became a poster boy for the depraved death cult when shocking images surfaced of his two young sons holding a severed head.
Depraved … Elomar has risen to prominence for gory photo shoots featuring severed heads of IS dissenters. Source: News Corp Australia
Young friends struggle with Elmir’s shock turn:
FRIENDS of the Australian teenager have come out in defence of their former mate.
The former Bankstown schoolboy, Elmir, was branded a “stupid idiot” by family members and a “dickhead” by Australian Senator David Leyonhjelm after he appeared in the IS video.
But his young friends say they “defend his legacy” as they struggle to get their heads around the drastic transformation they’ve seen in the boy.
Speaking to the ABC one of Elmir’s friends said, “his friends were taken by surprise by his sudden departure”.
“It’s causing a lot of conflict on social media,” she said.
“His close friends are trying to get everyone to respect Abdullah’s decision and not cuss him as he was just as normal as anyone else.”
Another friend told the ABC through Facebook, “never make judgements on a situation you’ve never been in. Never make judgements on decisions you’ve never had to make.”
Another also said, “I swear, people get mad because we defend his legacy, he is still our mate and that’s not changing anything.”
Before travelling to the Middle East it has been reported that Elmir had a love of theatre and last year, while in year 10, wrote about looking forward to more great performances.
Brainwashed…family members of Elmir, say he has been brainwashed by IS.. Picture: Youtube. Source: Supplied
He ran away from his Bankstown home on June 20, soon after his 17th birthday, with his 16-year-old friend, known only Feiz.
Elmir told his parents that he was off on a fishing trip, but his true motives were much more sinister.
He travelled to Perth, and then flew out to Malaysia and then Turkey before crossing the border into Syria.
Intelligence agencies believe he has been in Syria for the past four months, but he was not considered a priority target by intelligence agencies before the release of the video.
While Syrian Kurds are politically at odds with their Iraqi brethren, they have agreed to accept an influx of peshmerga fighters as part of any offensive.
People watch an explosion after an apparent US-led coalition airstrike on Kobani, Syria
Karen Deyoung | WASHINGTON
The United States and Iraq are drawing up a campaign plan for offensive operations by Iraqi ground forces to gradually reclaim towns and cities that have been occupied by Isis, according to a senior US official.
The plan, described as methodical and time-consuming, will not begin in earnest for several months and is designed to ensure that Iraqi forces do not over-extend themselves before they are capable of taking and holding territory controlled by the militants.
It may also include American advisers in the field with the Iraqis, should that be recommended by American military commanders, said the official, who updated reporters on administration strategy on the condition of anonymity. The advisers, the official said, would not participate in combat. President Barack Obama has said repeatedly that no US ground forces would be deployed to Iraq.
With few exceptions, the Iraqi army has concentrated largely on defence and efforts to prevent Isis from claiming more territory since early June when the militant group took over Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, and began moving south.
Despite some government gains, aided since early August by US air strikes, the militants control about one-third of Iraq, stretching from near Baghdad to the northwest, and across western Anbar province to the Syrian border.
In August, Mr Obama also authorised air strikes against Isis targets in western and northern Syria. Over the past few weeks, world attention has focused on the Syrian town of Kobani, on the Turkish border, where Isis forces have threatened to overrun besieged Syrian Kurdish fighters.
President Obama has insisted that the US would not deploy ground forces to Iraq (Getty)
Following a US military airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medical supplies to the Syrian Kurds on Sunday, Iraqi Kurdish fighters, called the peshmerga, are expected to come to their assistance.
The administration official said that the Syrian Kurds, while politically at odds with their Iraqi brethren, have agreed to accept an influx of peshmerga fighters. Details of the size and composition of the Iraqi Kurdish force, which is expected to cross into Kobani from Turkey, are to be finalised in the next few days.
But the US administration has said repeatedly that Iraq remains its main concern. Mr Obama said last month that in addition to the air strikes, his strategy includes trainers and advisers for the Iraqi military, which largely fled from advancing Isis forces in Mosul, and the installation of a more inclusive Iraqi government under which the country’s principal Muslim sects could unite.
© The Washington Post
A Twenty five-year-old woman arrested north of London for suspected offences relating to the civil war in Syria.
Detectives said security investigations were taking place at an ‘exceptionally high’ pace not seen in years. [Reuters]
Bedfordshire, England – British police have taken a 25-year-old woman into custody on suspicion of terrorism offences related to the ongoing civil war in Syria, officials have said.
London’s counter terrorism command said on Wednesday that officers had arrested the woman in Bedfordshire, north of the capital, on suspicion of preparing terrorism acts.
The police said she had been taken to a police station in London for questioning.
Two addresses in Bedfordshire were being searched, they added.
Last week, four men were charged with swearing allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), who have seized large swathes of Syria and Iraq, and preparing to launch an attack on policemen or soldiers in the capital.
On Tuesday, London police chief Bernard Hogan-Howe said at least five Britons were travelling to Iraq and Syria every week to fight for ISIL, while the authorities estimate that about 500 Britons have already travelled to the region to join the fighting.
Mark Rowley, Britain’s national policing spokesman for counter-terrorism, said last week that the police had made 218 arrests so far this year, and that detectives were carrying out security investigations at an “exceptionally high” pace not seen in years.