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Oct 25, 1:35 PM EDT

Extremists launch new attack on Syrian border town


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MURSITPINAR, Turkey (AP) -- Fighters from the Islamic State group launched Saturday a new offensive on the northern Syrian town of Kobani after shelling the area from their positions nearby, activists and a Kurdish official said.

Heavy fighting took place in Kobani Saturday afternoon and many mortar shells were fired into the town. Machinegun fire could be clearly heard from inside the town where black smoke was billowing.

The U.S. Central Command said an airstrike destroyed an IS artillery piece near Kobani. In the afternoon, warplanes of the U.S.-led coalition could be heard flying over Kobani.

Idriss Nassan, a senior official in Kobani, said the fighting concentrated on the southern and eastern edges of the town, also known as Ayn Arab.

"They think they can enter the city and these are just dreams," Nassan told The Associated Press by telephone adding that IS fighters have not been able to take Kobani despite more than a month of attacks.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the fighting concentrated on the eastern side of the town, surrounded on three sides by Islamic State fighters. It added that IS fighters were spreading news in areas under their control that they will take Kobani on Saturday.

IS launched its offensive on Kobani in mid-September and captured dozens of villages before entering parts of the town. The fighting has forced 200,000 people to flee to neighboring Turkey from the fighting.

Earlier this week, the U.S. Central Command said its forces conducted more than 135 airstrikes against the militants in and around Kobani, killing hundreds of IS fighters.

The Observatory and Aleppo-based activist Ahamd al-Ahmad said that the area near the northern village of Handarat witnessed intense clashes between Syrian rebels and government forces.

Government forces are trying to cut a main road linking rebel-held neighborhoods of Aleppo, Syria's largest city, with those in the countryside, Al-Ahmad said via Skype.

The Observatory said the fighting near Handarat has left 15 soldiers and pro-government gunmen dead as well as 12 opposition fighters since the early hours of Saturday.

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Associated Press writer Bassem Mroue contributed to this report from Beirut.

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