US-led forces launched air strikes on Islamic State fighters who are besieging a Kurdish town near the Syrian border with Turkey on Wednesday, Kurdish sources in the town and a monitoring group said, a rare daylight coalition attack.
Activists also said that militants from the group have beheaded nine Kurdish fighters, including three women, captured in clashes near the Syria-Turkey border.
Meanwhile, a Syrian official says 17 people, including 10 children, were killed in twin explosions near a school in the central city of Homs.
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The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Wednesday that the nine Kurds were captured during fighting over the northern Syrian town of Kobani, also known as Ayn Arab.
There have been fierce clashes around Kobani since mid-September, when the Islamic State group launched an assault to seize the area.The Observatory also says that dozens of militants and Kurdish fighters were killed in clashes overnight.
Images posted on social media networks show women's heads placed on a cement block, said to be in the northern Syrian city of Jarablous, held by militants. The photos could not be independently verified but correspond to The Associated Press' reporting of the event.
A Reuters correspondent on the Turkish side of the border could hear jets overhead and saw a column of black smoke rising into the sky from the southeast of the town.
"Today, American jets hit a village that is 4-5 km (2-3 miles) southeast of Kobani and we heard they destroyed one (Islamic State) tank," Parwer Mohammed Ali, a translator with the PYD Kurdish group, told Reuters by telephone from Kobani, known as Ain al-Arab in Arabic.
The United States has been carrying out strikes in Iraq against the militant group since July and in Syria since August with the help of Arab allies and Britain. Using mostly night strikes, it aims to damage and destroy the bases and forces of the al Qaeda offshoot that has captured large areas of both countries.
Esmat al-Sheikh, commander of the Kurdish forces defending Kobani, said there were five strikes but that he did not yet know if they were successful. "Jets are still circling overhead," he said by telephone.
The head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights Rami Abdulrahman said Kurdish sources on the battlefront reported seeing dead Islamic State fighters at the strike sites.
"Kurdish people saw the bodies," he said.
Syrian Kurdish leader called on Tuesday for Western states to provide weapons to his forces fighting Islamic State in the besieged Syrian border town of Kobani, warning that his fighters were outgunned and risked massacre if help did not arrive soon.
Saleh Muslim, head of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), which has close links to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in Turkey, said that his calls for arms had so far been rebuffed by the United States and European nations, blaming Turkey for obstructing his efforts.
"We are asking everybody who can help us to provide weapons to the people fighting against tanks and artillery, but nobody is doing anything. There will be many who are martyred," he told Reuters during a diplomatic mission to Europe.
"We have sent messages to the Europeans and the United States, but I think there are obstacles... Turkey and other countries are preventing this because they don't want the Kurds to be able to defend themselves."
Two blasts hit a school in the government-controlled Homs Wednesday, killing children and residents, rebels and state media said.
The explosions took place as children were leaving school at the end of classes on Wednesday in a neighborhood dominated by minority Alawites, a Shiite offshoot sect that President Bashar Assad also belongs to.
It was the deadliest strike to hit the government-controlled area in months.
The official, who is from the Homs governorate, also says that at least 56 people were wounded in the blasts. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to speak to the media.
"Two terrorist explosions near the Akrameh al-Makhzumi school and the Zaim hospital caused deaths and injuries," said state television.
Both the official news agency SANA and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights group also reported the attacks, and said one of them had been caused by a car bomb.
"Children were among the casualties in the blasts," said Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman, adding that it was unclear what had caused the second blast.
The blasts hit the Akrameh neighbourhood of Homs, which is home to a majority of Alawites, members of the same sect of Shiite Islam to which President Bashar Assad belongs.
Reuters, The Associated Press and AFP contributed to this report