BEIRUT (AP) — The U.N.'s World Food Program says it is "extremely concerned" about images circulating on social media showing Islamic State labels affixed to its food aid boxes in Syria.
It said in a statement Monday that it was still trying to verify the photos, but that they appear to have been taken in the northern Syrian village of Deir Hafer, which was last reached by the WFP on Aug. 5, when a convoy delivered 1,700 food rations, enough to feed 8,500 people for a month.
The WFP said it learned in September that IS members raided Red Crescent warehouses in the village where the rations may have been stored.
"WFP condemns this manipulation of desperately needed food aid inside Syria," said Muhannad Hadi, its emergency regional coordinator for the Syria crisis.
The Islamic State extremist group controls large parts of Syria, and captured much of northern and western Iraq last summer. But its offensive has since stalled in the face of U.S.-led coalition airstrikes.
A senior Kurdish official said Tuesday that Kurdish forces and their Syrian rebel allies have seized a belt of villages around the Syrian town of Kobani from the Islamic State days after driving the militants out of the border town.
IS militants overran large parts of Kobani and surrounding areas in mid-September, forcing tens of thousands of Kurds to flee to neighboring Turkey. For months Kurdish forces fought to retake Kobani, assisted by coalition airstrikes. The battle was seen as a major test of whether the airstrikes could halt the extremists' advance.
"Most of the villages close to Kobani have been liberated," said senior Kurdish official Anwar Muslim.
Muslim said Kurdish forces and their allies had secured a diameter of six to nine miles (10 to 15 kilometers) around Kobani. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported similar information.
Kurdish officials meanwhile asked for international funds to rebuild Kobani.
In an appeal sent to media outlets, Muslim and other Kurdish officials asked the United Nations to "actively take part in reconstruction of the province" and to open a "humanitarian corridor" to allow displaced Syrians to return.