The Pentagon says U.S. warplanes are bombing targets in the Syrian border town of Kobani in support of the town's Kurdish defenders, while warning that Islamic State extremists could seize the embattled enclave.
U.S. General John Allen, speaking Wednesday, said the strikes are aimed at giving the town's defenders time to organize. U.S. analysts believe the strikes have killed several hundred IS fighters.
Earlier Wednesday, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, with sources inside Syria, said the Kurdish fighters had retaken two Islamic State positions and pushed back militants from several streets; but, it said the Islamic State retained control of about half of Kobani.
The U.S. Central Command said it launched 18 airstrikes in and near the town Tuesday into Wednesday, destroying 16 buildings with jihadists inside.
Television footage showed large plumes of smoke from the bombings billowing above Kobani. On the ground, Kurdish militiamen and the Islamic State militants were engaged in intense street battles.
In nearby Iraq, government security forces were battling IS fighters for control of Amriyat al-Fallujah, a town 35 kilometers west of the capital, Baghdad, in restive Anbar province.
The local police chief said the jihadists had approached the town from three directions, leaving it "almost besieged." The government sent reinforcement forces from the Iraqi army on Wednesday.
U.S. President Barack Obama met Tuesday with Western and Arab defense leaders outside Washington, voicing concern about the fate of Kobani and Anbar province.
Obama warned the fight against the Islamic State militants would be a "long-term campaign.” He said that “as with any military effort, there will be days of progress and there are going to be periods of setback.”
Australia has offered to send 200 special forces troops to Iraq, but wants the Iraqi government to provide legal protections for them first. Prime Minister Tony Abbott says he expects an agreement to be reached soon, clearing the way for their deployment.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is calling attention to the abduction, enslavement and rape of Iraqi minority women and girls by the militants, saying they are the latest examples of the group's "depravity and evil."
Some information in this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.