BEIRUT - Islamic State group militants overran the headquarters of Kurdish forces defending the battleground Syrian border town of Kobane on Friday, a monitoring group said.

‘The militants have taken control of the headquarters building,’ used by the Kurdish military and civilian authorities, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. Fierce fighting had raged for the complex throughout the morning after IS militants captured part of it used by the Kurds’ asayesh internal security force on Thursday.

‘IS now controls 40 percent of the town,’ after entering eastern districts on Monday and attacking from the west and the south, said the Britain-based Observatory, which has a wide network of sources inside Syria. ‘The capture of the headquarters will allow the militants to advance on the border post with Turkey to the north of the town,’ Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP. ‘If they achieve that, they will have the Kurdish forces inside Kobane completely surrounded,’ he added. UN envoy Staffan de Mistura on Friday called on Turkey to allow Kurds to cross back into Syria to defend the key border town of Kobane from an onslaught by Islamic State militants.

‘We would like to appeal to the Turkish authorities in order to allow the flow of volunteers at least, and their equipment to be able to enter the city to contribute to a self-defence operation,’ de Mistura, the UN’s Syria envoy, told reporters in Geneva. He also called on Turkey, ‘if they can, to support the deterrent actions of the coalition through whatever means from their own territory.’ Kobane, where Kurdish fighters are holding out after a three-week offensive by the IS militants, has become a crucial battleground in the fight against he IS extremists. The statement marked an unusual one by the United Nations, which usually strives to stay neutral in conflicts, but de Mistura explained the rare appeal by the precarious situation in the key border town.

Kobane was ‘literally surrounded’ except for one narrow entry and exit point, with up to 700 mainly elderly civilians still inside the city centre, with another 10,000-13,000 gathered nearby, he said. ‘If this falls, the 700 plus perhaps if they move a little bit further the 12,000 people ... will be most likely massacred,’ he warned. US-led aircraft pounded Islamic State militants near Kobane on Thursday, but as fighting killed dozens, calls grew for ground action to support Kobane’s beleaguered Kurdish defenders.

Since the IS assault on Kobane began in mid-September, nearly 500 people have been killed in and around the town and 300,000 have fled the region. Battles have been raging especially fiercely since the militants breached Kobane’s defences earlier this week. Kobane, also known as Ain al-Arab, would be a major prize for the Islamic State group, giving it unbroken control of a long stretch of the border. The militants who have rampaged across large parts of Iraq and Syria have sent shockwaves through the international community as they have committed highly publicised brutal murders, including beheadings of several Western hostages.

US-led warplanes also carried out fresh strikes during the night on IS targets southwest of Kobane, said the Britain-based Observatory, which has a wide network of sources inside Syria. The number of daily air strikes around the town has jumped from a handful previously to 28 on Wednesday and at least 14 on Thursday, according to US Central Command, which runs the air war against the militants.

‘We get them when we see them,’ said one military officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity. ‘Opportunities (for air strikes) are presenting themselves in Kobane right now,’ the officer told AFP. But officials insisted there were no forward air controllers on the ground directing the strikes or a decision to ramp up the bombing runs. There is ‘no change in strategy but ISIL (IS) has exposed their forces as they have pushed north to Kobane and provided solid targets,’ said another senior military official, who asked not to be named.

IS jihadists execute nine people in northern Iraq

Islamic State group fighters executed nine people on Friday in two northern Iraqi towns on suspicion of ties to anti-jihadist Sunni grassroots organisations, security sources and witnesses said.

In the town of Az-Zab, 90 kilometres (55 miles) west of the oil hub of Kirkuk, six people were executed in public. “IS executed four residents of the lower part of Az-Zab and two from villages near Az-Zwiya,” a few miles further to the west, a local security official said.

Witnesses said the six were accused of being involved in efforts to organise Sunni resistance to IS in the Hawija region. They were executed on a marketplace, they said. It was in the same area that residents of the village of Tel Ali burned an IS flag last month.  In retaliation, the jihadists abducted 50 residents and put up flags across the region, even booby-trapping some of them to stop locals from removing them. In Baiji, about 35 kilometres (20 miles) to the south, three men were beheaded on Friday, a security official in the region said. The official said the three men had been abducted a few days earlier and were former members of the Sahwa organisation funded by the US military to combat Al-Qaeda in 2007-08.

Iraq’s Shiite-dominated government has been encouraging Sunni tribes to rise up against the extremist group that met little resistance when it swept through the country’s Sunni heartland in June.

After targeting minorities in the areas they invaded, IS fighters have in recent weeks been killing many Sunnis they suspect of links with the government.

In Ishaqi, around 70 kilometres (45 miles) north of Baghdad, the bodies of six unidentified executed young men were found.

“Iraqi security forces found six bodies in Ishaqi canal. They had gunshot wounds to the head and chest,” a senior police officer said.

US commanders were mindful of the dire humanitarian situation for the Kurds in Kobane, where 300,000 civilians have fled the advancing militants, but Washington did not consider it a strategic location, the official said. ‘We’re not going to be drawn into a town-by-town strategy,’ the official said. With the world media gathered just across the border in Turkey, the conquest of Kobane would be a highly visible symbolic victory for the extremists.

Coordination in Kobane Furthermore,  IS militants now control 40 percent of the Syrian town of Kobani on the Turkish border and might well capture it, Deputy U.S. National Security Adviser Tony Blinken said on Friday. Blinken said as of Thursday, IS fighters had taken over about 40 percent of Kobani with local Kurdish forces holding about 60 percent, echoing figures from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.  ‘I don’t know what’s going to happen because again in the absence of any ground force there, it is going to be difficult just through air power to prevent ISIL from potentially taking over the town,’ he told reporters at a briefing in London. He said there would be other similar situations to Kobani where U.S. actions may or may not be effective. ‘There are other Kobanis in Iraq, there are other Kobanis in Syria on a daily basis,’ he said.