UNITED NATIONS/DIYARBAKIR - Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the U.N. human rights office Tuesday voiced their grave concern for the safety of civilians caught up in the ongoing offensive by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) on the northern Syrian town of Ayn al-Arab, also known as Kobane.

In a statement released by his spokesperson, the secretary-general said that the terrorist group is continuously carrying out its “barbarous campaign” and committing extensive violations of human rights and humanitarian law in areas that have fallen under its control in Syria and Iraq. The UN chief urged all those with the means to do so to take immediate action to protect the beleaguered civilian population of Ayn al-Arab.

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) expressed its alarm over the situation, noting that the reported intensification of indiscriminate shelling by ISIL of various parts of the town of Ayn al-Arab has caused 10,000 civilians who had remained in the border area to cross into Turkey on Sunday and Monday.

“Up until 3 or 4 days ago, there were still some 10,000 civilians who had not yet crossed into Turkey, and although most have now done so, some may still remain,” OHCHR spokesperson Rupert Colville told reporters in Geneva. On Monday, 6 October, ISIL units reportedly broke through the trenches dug by the town’s mainly Kurdish defenders, and street-to-street fighting then took place in eastern neighbourhoods of the town, Colville said. They also took control of a number of buildings and a strategic hill looking over the town from the south-east.

Moreover, at least 14 people were killed as pro-Kurdish protests raged across Turkey Wednesday over the government’s failure to act against militants attacking the majority-Kurdish Syrian border city of Kobane. The disturbances are the worst outbreak of such violence in years and risk derailing Turkey’s peace process with the Kurds. In a move unprecedented since the deadliest days of the Kurdish insurgency in the 1990s, the army was deployed to impose a curfew in several cities in the east.

The violence was concentrated in the mainly Kurdish southeast but also flared in Istanbul, Ankara and other cities, with empty buses firebombed and protesters hurling stones at police. The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government has so far not intervened militarily against Islamic State (IS) militants trying to take Kobane, to the fury of Turkey’s Kurds.