Syrian activists said the first of 150 Iraqi Kurdish fighters have arrived in Kobani to help Syrian Kurds in their fight against Islamic State militants.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which relies on a network of activists on the ground, said Thursday about 10 of the peshmerga forces from Iraq's Kurdistan region crossed into Kobani from Turkey.
Around 150 fighters spent Wednesday traveling across Turkey toward the Syrian border under an agreement with the Turkish government to let them pass through.
The monitoring group said the remaining peshmerga fighters were expected to enter the town - known as Ayn al-Arab in Arabic – “within hours.”
“That initial group, I was told, is here to carry out the planning for our strategy going forward,” Meryem Kobane, a commander with the YPG, the main Syrian Kurdish armed group defending the town, told Reuters.
Hemin Hawrami, a senior official in the Kurdistan Democratic Party in Iraq, wrote on Twitter that the peshmerga already in Kobani were assessing where the heavy weapons would be deployed.
In a compound protected by Turkish security forces near the border town of Suruc, the fighters were donning combat fatigues and preparing their weapons, a Reuters correspondent said.
The peshmerga fighters are joining the battle in Kobani, where Kurds have been fighting to hold off an advance by the Islamic State group since mid-September.
On Thursday, Masoud Barzani, the president of Iraqi Kurdistan, said the region is prepared to deploy more forces to Kobani if asked.
On Wednesday, a group of about 50 rebels from the Free Syrian Army arrived in Kobani to help the Kurds.
Turkey has said it will not send its own troops because it says the Syrian Kurds in Kobani are linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, which has fought with Turkey for three decades for cultural and political rights.
U.S. military jets have carried out weeks of airstrikes in the Kobani area targeting the Islamic State group.
The U.S. said in the last day it launched 10 more airstrikes on Islamic State positions near Kobani, two others elsewhere in Syria and two in Iraq.
Neither side has gained a decisive advantage in the fighting, which has forced almost 200,000 Syrian Kurds to flee into Turkey.
The town's fate has become a test of the U.S.-led coalition's ability to combat the Islamic State insurgents.
Mass graves, executions
Iraqi authorities are alleging that Islamic State militants executed more than 200 people this week when they resisted the insurgents' takeover of their territory, while a U.S. rights group says the jihadists also gunned down 600 prison inmates in June.
Iraqi security officials said that 150 bodies from the Sunni Muslim Albu Nimr tribe, which resisted the Islamic State advance west of Baghdad, were found buried in a mass grave near the city of Ramadi. More than 70 others were dumped near the town of Hit.
A witness reported that one of the Islamic State fighters, who also are Sunnis, said the executions were punishment for "anybody fighting Islamic State."
In a separate report, U.S.-based Human Rights Watch said the Islamic State group executed about 600 male inmates at the Badoush prison outside the northern Iraqi city of Mosul on June 10.
The rights group said that the insurgents split Sunni and Shi'ite prisoners, and then forced the Shi'ite men to kneel along the edge of a ravine before shooting them with assault rifles and automatic weapons.
It said the account came from 15 prisoners who survived the massacre by pretending they were dead, and because the militants said they had run out of ammunition.
Human Rights Watch said the "gruesome details" of the mass killing of prisoners "make it impossible to deny the depravity of this extremist group."
Some material for this report came from Reuters and AP.