The Battle for Kobane

Nov 10, 2014 at 1:06 PM ET

We sat in an SUV at the final checkpoint in the Turkish town of Suruç, bordering besieged Kobane, Syria. The Jandarma (Turkish military) swarmed our car and took our passports. “Why would you go in there?!” one of them asked me. As if on cue, we heard shelling and sniper fire nearby. “Do you hear that? There is no security in there!”

I motioned to the man in the front passenger’s seat. “Here’s our security,” I said. That man, a decorated military commander, had agreed to personally bring me into Kobane with cameraman Jake Simkin and fixer Ibrahim Ali. Eventually, the Jandarma at the border relented and escorted us to the heavily fortified entrance into Syria. We sprinted through the mud to a pickup truck full of armed fighters and sped down an eerily abandoned street toward our base. In a collaboration with MSNBC, we were some of the first journalists into the town since the Islamic State, commonly known as ISIS, moved in about six weeks prior.

We arrived just after 320 Free Syrian Army fighters and 150 Peshmerga fighters came to join the YPG (the national army of Syrian Kurdistan) in battling ISIS. International reports on the amount of Kobane ISIS controlled varied, but when we got to town, the YPG told us the group holds 60 to 70 percent. We spent our first day shooting interviews, settling into an abandoned house and covering windows with blankets to limit the amount of light visible from the outside. “If [ISIS] can see us, they’ll shell us,” a fighter told me.

We managed to upload a small amount of footage from the beginning of our trip, and we used it to make a short first piece about our time in Kobane.