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Kobani Fighting Sends 400,000 Refugees to Turkey

The offensive by Islamic State militants against the northern Syrian city of Kobani has caused hundreds of thousands of residents to flee to Turkey. They receive help from Turkish authorities and individuals, but say much more is needed.

Morning in Suruc, southeastern Turkey. Rojava camp - one of several in this town of 20,000 - is a new neighborhood of refugees who arrived following the seizure of parts of Kobani by the Islamic State, or IS.

Some 400,000 people from Kobani and its surrounding villages, mostly Kurds, fled after IS militants executed hundreds of local residents saying they were infidels, according to Shaheen, a farmer who will give only his first name out of fear of reprisals against relatives still inside.

“They bombed and destroyed everything. They executed my cousin then they shared the photo of his head on Facebook. His name was Zuhir,” he said.

Families like this fled with only the clothes on their backs. The father said local aid groups helped them a lot but they had no money to supplement these basic rations.

Winter was coming and the weather on this high plain was turning cold, especially at night, said Fadela, a mother of five.

“My children need clothes, underwear, pajamas and winter clothes. We need gas and electricity, and kitchen utensils. They give us food, but not enough [of it],” she said.

Camp coordinator Azad, also from Kobani, said more services were needed at the three week-old facility.

“Medical services, toilets, water, no electricity. We give them what we can of food and some health services,” said Azad.

He hoped temporary houses could be built before winter because children and the elderly were getting sick.

“We need help. There are some people still sleeping in the streets. They don’t have tents, food or medicine. We need more help from the West and the United Nations,” said farner Shaheen.

The refugees said the U.S.-led air strikes against Islamic State positions have helped. But they said Kurdish forces fighting IS would need heavier weapons on the ground in order to prevent the militant group from taking full control of Kobani.