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Dozens killed in airstrikes as Kurdish fighters hold back IS from Kobane

Amidst reports of the Islamic State's advance, activists on the ground say the group has "failed to enter the town"
Smoke rises from Kobane as Turkish soldiers take position in the southeastern town of Suruc (AFP)

Kurdish fighters backed by US-led air strikes held back Islamic State fighters attacking a Syrian border town on Saturday.

Dozens of militants with IS were reported dead in the latest American-led coalition air raids.

The dusty town of Kobane on the frontier with Turkey has become a key battleground between IS militants and their opponents, who include local Kurdish fighters as well as the United States and its allies.

Fighting raged Saturday as IS militants kept up their offensive to seize Kobane, activists said. 

Mortar shells pounded the town as smoke rose above it, according to an AFP team on the Turkish side of the border.

US-led strikes late Friday targeted at least four sites on the outskirts of Kobane, destroying some military material, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights group said.

Five militants were killed in the air raids near the border town, as well as 30 more around Shadadi in northeastern Syria, according to the Britain-based group, which monitors the conflict.

IS militants fired at least 80 mortar rounds into Kobane town on Friday.

But activist Mustafa Ebdi said Kurdish fighters had been buoyed by their success at holding off the assault so far, noting that IS had hoped to capture the town by Saturday for the Muslim Eid al-Adha festival.

"So far they have failed to enter the town."

IS began its advance towards Kobane, known in Arabic as Ain al-Arab, on 16 September to cement its grip over a long stretch of the border. 

It has prompted a mass exodus of residents from the town and the surrounding countryside, with some 186,000 fleeing into Turkey.

Turkish security force have used tear gas and water cannons to remove Kurdish protestors who came to the Turkey-Syria border to show solidarity with the beleaguered Kurds in Kobane.

In Diyarbakir, referred to as the capital of Turkish Kurdistan, hundreds of Kurds have protested against the inaction of the Turkish government, with many closing their shops in protest.

"We expect the government to help our Kurdish fighters with military assistance, not words," local resident Umit Mercan told Al Jazeera.

"So many are getting injured, because they are running short of weapons to fight."

Another local told Al-Jazeera that the inaction was part of a plan to undermine the leftist Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) who have fought a guerrilla war against the Turkish state for decades.

"The government's intentions to help in the fight are not useful on the ground if they can't help the people in the field. Instead, the Turkish government has been helping Daesh (IS)…by letting them defeat the Kurdish fighters."

Turkey threatens IS

Washington is leading a coalition of nations against IS, a militant group which has declared an Islamic "caliphate" in parts of Syria and Iraq.

On Thursday, Turkey's parliament voted to allow the deployment of forces in Syria and Iraq to fight IS, and the country's prime minister has pledged to "do whatever we can" to prevent Kobane falling to IS militants.

On Saturday, Ankara also warned it would not hesitate to strike IS if they attacked Turkish troops stationed at an enclave holding the tomb of Suleyman Shah.

The small patch of land is considered Turkish territory and dozens of Turkish troops are stationed there.

"If one so much as touches a hair on their heads, Turkey with its army will do all that is necessary and everything will change from that moment on," President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned.

He also angrily rejected comments by US Vice President Joe Biden that Turkey and others in the region had financed and armed Islamist organisations in Syria.

"No one can accuse Turkey of having supported any terrorist organisation in Syria, including IS," Erdogan said.

Erdogan also attacked the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) saying they needed to be considered a terrorist organisation on the same level as IS.

"It is wrong to consider them in different ways… We need to handle them all together on a common ground," said Erdogan. 

The PKK is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey as well as by the US and the European Union. Turkey has launched what is publicly known as "the solution process" to end a decades old conflict with the PKK, which has claimed the lives of more than 40,000 people.