SYRIA

‘I survived a jihadist suicide attack in Kobane’

On Saturday, November 29, the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group carried out five suicide bombings to help its fighters advance on Kobane, a Syrian town located on the Turkish border, most of which which is currently controlled by Kurdish forces. Our Observer, a doctor in the city, survived – but part of his field hospital was blown up in the explosion.

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Mohamed Arif Ali at the scene of the suicide attack. Photo by Mohamed Arif Ali.

On Saturday, November 29, the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group carried out five suicide bombings to help its fighters advance on Kobane, a Syrian town located on the Turkish border, most of which which is currently controlled by Kurdish forces. Our Observer, a doctor in the city, survived – but part of his field hospital was blown up in the explosion.

These five attacks on Kobane were followed by violent fighting between IS fighters and Kurdish forces, while the coalition led by the United States carried out air strikes on the jihadists’ positions.

According to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, at least 50 jihadist fighters died on Saturday. The YPG (People’s Protection Units), the Kurdish brigade defending the city, lost 11 soldiers. One member of the Free Syrian Army who was fighting alongside them also died.

One of the targets of the attacks was the Mursitpinar border post, a strategic location that would help the IS jihadists take hold of the city.

“A green armoured vehicle sped into Kobane, zigzagging back and forth across the road”

Mohamed Arif, a doctor in a field hospital in Kobane, witnessed the suicide attack carried out on the Mursitpinar post on the Turkish border.

The field hospital's medical team at the Mursitpinar border post. Photo by Mohamed Arif Ali.

Our small medical team is made up of ten people. The infirmary was located in a building that is only about 50 metres from the border post. On Saturday, the jihadists carried out several simultaneous suicide attacks. One of them took place only metres from where we were.

Looking out my window, I saw a green-coloured BMP vehicle [Editor’s note: a type of armoured vehicle] speeding into Kobane, zigzagging back and forth across the road. It was coming from Turkey, I have no doubt [Editor’s note: FRANCE 24 was not able to confirm this information.] It came so fast that I didn’t have time to film the vehicle’s entry through the crossing point. It exploded a few seconds later. The explosion caused a huge amount of damage. We lost lots of the medical material and the medicines that we had in the infirmary.

The field hospital after the explosion. Photo by Mohamed Arif Ali.

Shortly after the explosion, we headed towards another building where a number of people live, including my brother. I was terrified for his safety. Because there are no rescue workers here, we had to dig out the survivors ourselves. We found several people trapped in the debris. Some were still wearing pyjamas; they had probably been sleeping when the vehicle exploded. Three people died and about 15 people were injured. I found two people trapped in the debris. One was dead. The other was still alive. Thankfully, my brother survived with only a fracture.

Ruins after the explosion. Photo by Mohamed Arif Ali.

“It was the scariest day I have experienced since the beginning of the IS offensive”

After the explosion, we heard shots coming from the Turkish side of the border. We thought it was the Turkish army. But, in reality, there were no Turkish soldiers at all at the border post! [Editor’s Note: The leaders of the main Syrian Kurdish party, the PYD, said that the IS suicide bombers came from the “Turkish side of the border” but Turkish authorities called the claim a “crude lie.” However, other sources confirmed that clashes did occur in the buffer zone next to the Turkish border.]

Mursitpinar border post. Photo by Mohamed Arif Ali.

The fighting went on for six or seven hours. Multiple people died and many were injured, though I don’t know how many.

We risked our lives to go by foot to get them but the IS fighters fired on us. It was the scariest day I have experienced since the beginning of the IS offensive on Kobane. I tried to save a young Kurdish fighter, a young woman who couldn’t have been older than 25. I carried her all the way to the basement of a building where we were able to start treating her. But it wasn’t enough. She died the same day.

A car that was burned by the explosion. Photo by Mohamed Arif Ali.

Now we have moved to another location that we have to keep secret because the IS fighters are looking for us. Why? Because we treat Kurdish fighters. But we wouldn’t turn away an IS soldier. We treat everyone. However, it’s true that if we treated an IS soldier, that jihadist would then be quickly imprisoned.

While FRANCE 24 was speaking to Mohamed Arif on Monday evening, new clashes broke out on the eastern side of the city. Arif had to cut the conversation short.