Pentagon: ISIS seized materials airdropped to Kurds
The Pentagon confirmed Wednesday that Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) was able to seize one of the 28 bundles of weapons and medical supplies intended for Kurdish fighters. Col. Steve Warren said it appears the wind caused the parachute to go off-course, and that the weapons in the bundle were not enough to make a difference.
In a video posted online Tuesday, the militant group said it captured the material, which was intended for Kurdish forces defending an embattled Syrian city near the Turkish border. ISIS claims some of the weapons and ammunition was air-dropped by mistake on its positions in Kobani.
The video showed the weapons seized included hand grenades, ammunition and rocket-propelled grenade launchers.
The airdrops, which happened on Sunday were the first of their kind and followed weeks of U.S. and coalition airstrikes in and near Kobani.
One bundle missed the drop zone and was destroyed, Pentagon officials told CBS News. A second had also missed the drop zone and was captured by ISIS. However the items in it make no real strategic difference to either side.
"One bundle worth of equipment is not enough equipment to give the enemy any type of advantage at all," said Col. Steve Warren, Pentagon press officer. "This is stuff...that ISIS already has." He said he has no reason to believe any of the other pallets went astray.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the United States made a mistake in airdropping weapons to Kurdish fighters in Kobani earlier this week because some of the weapons ended up in IS hands.
"It turns out that what was done was wrong," he said, according to Turkey's private Dogan news agency.
The Turkish government is reluctant to aid the Syrian Kurdish forces - the People's Protection Units, or YPG - because it views them as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, which has waged a 30-year insurgency in Turkey and is designated a terrorist group by the U.S. and NATO.
The caches were dropped to Kurds in embattled Kobani. Differences about how to defend Kobani have sparked tensions between Turkey and its NATO partners.
Turkey's decision to give Kurds passage to fight in Syria marked a shift in position, even though Ankara in recent years has built friendly ties with the leadership of the largely autonomous Iraqi Kurdish region.
Peshmerga spokesman Halgurd Hekmat in Irbil said there is still a lot of uncertainty on the details of the deployment, including how many forces will be sent and when.
"We're sending the peshmerga, not to become YPG but to fight alongside the YPG," Hekmat said. "We will send the peshmerga to do their job for as long as they're needed and to come back after that."
Hekmat said Iraqi forces will also provide weapons, but he did not say what kind.
Turkey is under pressure to take greater action against the ISIS militants - not only from the West but also from Kurds in Syria and Turkey who accuse Ankara of inaction while their people are slaughtered. Earlier this month across Turkey, widespread protests threatened to derail talks to end the PKK insurgency.
Sunni extremists of the Islamic State group, which has rampaged across Iraq and Syria, have been attacking Kobani for a month. The U.S. and its allies are assisting the Kurds with airstrikes targeting IS infrastructure in and around the town.
Meanwhile, Kurdish officials and doctors said they believed Islamic State militants had released some kind of toxic gas in a district in eastern Kobani.
Aysa Abdullah, a senior Kurdish official based in the town, said the attack took place late Tuesday, and that a number of people suffered symptoms that included dizziness and watery eyes. She and other officials said doctors lacked the equipment to determine what kinds of chemicals were used.
The reports could not be independently confirmed. Kurdish officials have made similar allegations before.
Also Wednesday, Syria's information minister said the country's air force destroyed two of three fighter jets seized and reportedly test-flown over Aleppo by the Islamic State group last week.
Omran al-Zoubi told Syrian TV late Tuesday that Syrian aircraft bombed the jets on the runway as they landed at Jarrah air base.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that IS militants flew three MiG fighter jets with the help of former Iraqi air force pilots who were now members of the militant group. The report could not be independently confirmed, and U.S. officials said they had no reports of the militants flying jets.
The group is known to have seized warplanes from at least one air base captured from the Syrian army in Raqqa province earlier this year. Militant websites had posted photos of IS fighters with the warplanes, but it was unclear if they were operational.
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