Recent video published by Amak News Agency shows (ANA) Islamic State taking up position on Mount Mishtenur a little over a mile outside of Kobane, a Syrian Kurdish town on Turkey’s border.
Despite reports of a US Predator flying overhead possibly collecting intelligence for strikes, the Islamic State continues to advance on key areas of interest. Kobane, also known as the Syrian Kurdish town of Ayn al-Arab, has been under siege since 15SEPT14, with Islamic State (IS) militants clashing with Kurdish fighters from the People’s Protection Units (YPG). The most recent reports put IS militants just 1 mile away, surrounding the city on all three sides and slowly getting closer.
Just today (05OCT14), Amak News Agency published video showing the militants making their way along Mount Mishtenur. This elevated location overlooking Kobane provides an advantageous position to conduct overwatch as well as maintain a view of the Turkish border. The latter may be more important now that Turkey has authorized military force, deployed troops, and stationed tanks nearby.
As of yesterday, YPG forces had reported that their snipers had managed to keep IS from this key position. Today’s video suggests that is no longer the case.
Looking closely at the video suggests filming occurred at several locations to the south and southeast of the town. At least 3 points were geolocated by using several screengrabs. The points briefly examined today are shown in the above map.
The video starts out depicting at least six IS fighters taking cover behind a T-62 main battle tank as the they approach an open area with two structures. This is shown in the title image. These structures are located at point one on the map at 36.8608 38.3457. While the video clearly shows the structures on a slight incline, the outskirts of the town can still be observed to the left (or west).
As the IS fighters make their way up the mount, they come to the radio towers and electrical transmission lines shown above and as point two on the map. This location can be found at 36.8758 38.3641. Interestingly, the video wasn’t shot in sequence and image 2 shows the fighters walking back from the edge of their overwatch position. This is suggested by the structure near the radio towers on the left (or east). Once on the mount, the T-62 can no longer be heard and the video is unable to confirm the tank’s position. However, the video did manage to capture another person beyond the six fighters walking in the distance. This could be the tank driver or perhaps another fighter suggesting IS has firmly secured this strategic position.
And lastly, point three is located in a rocky area of the mountain top overlooking the town. The video shows fighters taking up a couple of different positions. The first is behind some stones which litter the mountain top and the second at a bermed trench. The latter was constructed sometime in 2012 according to satellite imagery. From this position the IS camera man zooms in looking over the town and we get to see the words “Hudut Namustur” written on a hill across the border. This roughly translates from Turkish as “Border is Honor” and is a common sight near the Turkish and Syrian border crossings. This writing corresponds with the topography and satellite imagery identified in Google Earth.
From the IS overwatch position, the fighters should be able to keep an eye on Turkey’s tanks which are now reported to be at Mürşitpınar, less than a mile away from the Syrian Turkish town. While current media reports say over a dozen tanks are present, more may not be far away if satellite imagery is any indicator. Imagery from October 2012 show about three Turkish tank companies deployed in the area.
In the meantime, Turkey’s Parliament voted 298-98 endorsing a measure to allow the Turkish military to intervene in both Iraq and Syria. What a potential Turkish intervention may look like is difficult to say. But if it involves putting Turkish troops on the ground, the Kurdish militants will unlikely be pleased. Since announcing their autonomy in July 2012, it’s more likely they’ll see the Turkish military as occupiers, according to sources on the ground.
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has said he would help the Kurdish fighters defend Kobane from IS. “We wouldn’t want Kobane to fall,” Davutoglu said. “We welcomed our brothers who came from Kobane. We’ll do whatever we can to prevent this from happening.” In the last week, more than 160,000 Syrian nationals have fled to Turkey.