Kurdish fighters and Christian militiamen are making gains against the Islamic State group in northeastern Syria, with intense clashes amid airstrikes by the U.S.-led coalition, an activist group and a Kurdish official said Saturday.
Nasser Haj Mansour, a defense official in Syria's Kurdish region, said the fighters captured the Christian village of Tal Maghas in Hassakeh province, which had been under the control of Islamic State militants. Haj Mansour and the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the village was taken overnight.
They said airstrikes by the U.S.-led coalition, the first in the area in days, were targeting Islamic State positions near Tal Tamr village, about 10 kilometers (6 miles) west of Tal Maghas. The Observatory and Haj Mansour reported intense clashes near Tal Tamr on Saturday.
Syria's main Kurdish force, the People's Protection Units, or YPG, called Friday for air support from the U.S.-led coalition in Hassakeh province. The Islamic State group has been fighting YPG fighters and members of the Christian Syriac Military Council in Hassakeh for weeks, with dozens killed on both sides.
In the past months, U.S.-led airstrikes have helped YPG fighters push the Islamic State group out of some parts of northern Syria. Recently, weeks of airstrikes helped tip the balance against Islamic State fighters attacking the northern Syrian town of Kobani. Since then, YPG has regained full control of Kobani as well as dozens of surrounding villages.
The YPG has called on young men to join the battle, saying Islamic State group has brought in reinforcements from Syria and Iraq.
Also Saturday, the Observatory, which has a network of activists around Syria, said a cousin of President Bashar Assad was shot dead in a dispute with an influential person in his northwestern hometown of Qardaha.
The Observatory did not give further details or name of the person who allegedly killed Mohammed Toufic Assad.