The Islamic State group launched a surprise attack on the Kurdish enclave of Kobani in northern Syria Thursday, and have already killed or wounded dozens of people, according to a monitoring group.
The assault began when a vehicle packed with explosives was detonated near a border crossing with Turkey at around midnight, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR). The monitoring group estimated at least five people were killed in the explosion. The border crossing is often packed with refugees fleeing Syria's civil war.
Shortly after the initial blast, fighters from the Islamic State group poured into Kobani, sparking street-by-street fighting with the Kurdish YPG and YPJ militias.
"Fierce clashes erupted afterwards in the center of the town and there are bodies lying in the streets," SOHR director Rami Abdel Rahman stated.
The sudden offensive comes after weeks of victories for the YPG/YPJ over the Islamic State group. Earlier this week Kurdish forces seized a military base sitting on a key supply route to the Islamic State group's de facto capital, Raqqa.
Last Monday the YPG announced it had taken control of the border town of Tal Abyad from the Islamic State group.
Sitting near the frontier with Turkey, the town has been another major supply route for militants. The capture of the town also meant a number of Kurdish enclaves straddling the Turkish border had become logistically linked – a significant step forward for the YPG's political ambitions.
The YPG/YPJ aims to carve out political autonomy for regions in Syria's north, where the population is predominantly Kurdish.
Unlike most other militias in Syria's civil war, the Kurdish militias claims to be fiercely democratic and supporters of women’s rights.
Officers are purportedly democratically elected and the YPJ has been hailed by Kurdish leaders for its central role in the defeat of the Islamic State group in January after the months-long battle over Kobani last year and earlier this year.
For months the Islamic State group beseiged the town, but was eventually pushed back by Kurdish defenders.