Iraqi peshmerga fighters have arrived in south-eastern Turkey en route for the Syrian town of Kobani to try to help fellow Kurds break an Islamic State siege that has defied US-led air strikes.

iraqi Kurds Turkey Kobani
An Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga fighter flashes a victory sign as his convoy carrying with heavy weapons arrives at the Habur crossing along the Turkish-Iraqi borderAFP

Scores of people waited by the side of the road in villages for the troops to pass. Thousands of people awaited them at the border.

The crowd sang and chanted traditional peshmerga songs and had to be pushed back by every vehicle that tried to make its way through the masses. Many people carried colourful Kurdish flags and portraits of the Iraqi Kurdish Regional President Massoud Barzani.

iraqi Kurds Turkey Kobani
A Kurdish woman holds on to a vehicle as a convoy of heavily armed Kurdish peshmerga fighters heads towards the Syrian border town of KobaniAFP
iraqi Kurds Turkey Kobani
People celebrate and wave the Kurdish flag as peshmerga fighters arrive in TurkeyAFP
iraqi Kurds Turkey Kobani
Kurds in Turkey celebrate as a peshmerga convoy passes through the Habur border crossingAFP

Kobani, on the border with Turkey, has been under assault from Islamic State militants for more than a month and its fate has become a test of the US-led coalition's ability to combat the Sunni insurgents.

Weeks of air strikes on Islamic State positions around Kobani and the deaths of hundreds of their fighters have failed to break the siege.

kobani air strike
A picture taken from the Turkish border shows smoke billowing after a jet fighter hit KobaniAFP
kobani air strike
A picture taken from the Turkish border shows smoke billowing after a jet fighter hit Kobani in SyriaAFP

The Iraqi Kurdish region's parliament voted last week to deploy some peshmerga to Syria and, under pressure from Western allies, Turkey agreed to let peshmerga forces from Iraq traverse its territory to reach Kobani.

The United States and its allies in the coalition have made clear they do not plan to send troops to fight Islamic State in Syria or Iraq but they need partners on the ground to capitalise on their air strikes.

kobani iraqi kurds
Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fighters wave to people as they head to the Syrian town of Kobani to help fellow Kurds repel an Islamic State advance that has defied US-led air strikesReuters
iraqi Kurds Turkey Kobani
Crowds of Kurds cheer as a convoy of peshmerga vehicles arrives in south-eastern TurkeyReuters
iraqi Kurds Turkey Kobani
A convoy of peshmerga vehicles is welcomed by Turkish Kurds at Habur border gate, which separates Turkey from IraqReuters

Turkish officials have rebuffed international criticism over their reluctance to do more to help Kobani's beleaguered Kurdish defenders, whom they accuse of being linked to the militant Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has fought a decades-long insurgency against the Turkish state.

Ankara fears Syria's Kurds will exploit the chaos by following their brethren in Iraq and seeking to carve out an independent state in northern Syria, emboldening Kurdish militants in Turkey and derailing a fragile peace process.

iraqi Kurds Turkey Kobani
Kurds in Turkey greet peshmerga convoys at the Habur border crossing along the Turkish-Iraqi borderAFP