The United States military carried out several airdrops of weapons, ammunition and medical supplies to Kurdish fighters battling militants of the Islamic State group near the Syrian border town of Kobani, the U.S. Central Command, or CENTCOM, said, in a statement released late Sunday. The arms transfer is likely to aggravate Turkey, which had, earlier on Sunday, reportedly labeled Kurdish fighters as terrorists.
“The aircraft delivered weapons, ammunition and medical supplies that were provided by Kurdish authorities in Iraq and intended to enable continued resistance against ISIL's attempts to overtake Kobani,” CENTCOM said, in the statement, adding that the arms and supplies were provided by Kurdish authorities in Iraq.
The airdrops were carried out amid opposition from NATO ally Turkey, which had reportedly expressed reservations over supplying arms to Kurdish fighters in Syria.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan equated the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party, or PYD-- whose fighters are battling ISIS in Kobani -- with the PKK, a Kurdish group designated as a terrorist organization in Turkey.
“It would be wrong for the United States -- with whom we are friends and allies in NATO -- to talk openly and to expect us to say ‘yes’ to such a support to a terrorist organization,” Erdogan reportedly said.
Meanwhile, fierce fighting raged in Kobani late on Sunday as Kurdish fighters continued to regain lost territory from the Islamic State group, according to media reports. ISIS militants reportedly took heavy losses on Sunday following continued airstrikes by the U.S.-led coalition.
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, at least 70 militants of the Islamic State group have been killed in and around Kobani in the past two days.
“To date, U.S. forces have conducted more than 135 airstrikes against ISIL in Kobani. Combined with continued resistance to ISIL on the ground, indications are that these strikes have slowed ISIL advances into the city, killed hundreds of their fighters and destroyed or damaged scores of pieces of ISIL combat equipment and fighting positions,” CENTCOM said, in the statement. However, it reiterated that the town “could still fall.”