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Kurdish fighters 'force IS out' of Kobane

Over 3 million Syrian refugeese feld into Turkey, Jordan, Iraq, and Lebanon (Anadolu)

Date of publication: 26 January, 2015

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After months of heavy fighting Kurdish forces push back Islamic State militants and retake full control of the Syrian border town of Kobane, activists say.
Kurdish fighters have expelled Islamic State group (IS, formerly ISIS) militants from the embattled town of Kobane, activists said Monday, dealing a key symbolic blow to the group's territorial ambitions.

The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitor, said fighters from the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) had pushed IS militants out of the town after four months of fighting.

     People are dancing and singing, there are fireworks. Everyone feels a huge sense of relief.
"I can see the YPG flag flying over Kobane. There are sounds of jets flying above," Tevfik Kanat, a Turkish Kurd who rushed to the border with hundreds of others, told Reuters.

"People are dancing and singing, there are fireworks. Everyone feels a huge sense of relief," he said.

Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP that YPG forces had "expelled all Islamic State fighters from Kobane and have full control of the town."

"The Kurds are pursuing some IS fighters on the eastern outskirts of Kobane, but there is no more fighting inside now."

Rahman said Kurdish forces were carrying out "mopping-up operations" against remaining IS forces in the Maqtala district, on the eastern outskirts of the town.

There was no immediate official announcement from the YPG, but Mustafa Ebdi, an activist from the town, told AFP that "fighting has stopped" in Kobane.

YPG forces were "advancing carefully in Maqtala because of the threat of mines and car bombs," he added.

The advance by Kurdish fighters was aided by 24 hours of heavy bombing by the US-led coalition fighting IS in Syria and Iraq.

In a statement, the Pentagon said the coalition had carried out 17 air strikes against ISIS positions in Kobane in the 24 hours from 25 January alone.

The targets included "tactical units" and "fighting positions" as well as an IS vehicle and staging areas, the statement said.

The loss of Kobane, also known as Ain al-Arab, would be a key symbolic blow against IS, which has lost more than 1,000 fighters since it began its advance on the town on September 16.

Brakes on expansion?

At one time it looked set to overrun Kobane, which lies on the Syrian-Turkish border.

The group vastly out-gunned the YPG thanks to weapons captured from military bases in Syria and Iraq, and sent hundreds of fighters to the battle.

But Kurdish forces gradually pushed back IS fighters with the help of fighters from Iraq's Kurdish peshmerga forces and air raids by the US-led coalition against IS.

Analysts say the loss of Kobane is both a symbolic and strategic blow for IS, which set its sights on the small town in a bid to cement its control over a long stretch of the Syrian-Turkish border.

Since the group emerged in its current form in 2013, it has captured large swathes of territory in both Syria and Iraq.

It has declared an Islamic "caliphate" in territory under its control, and gained a reputation for brutality, including executions and torture.

But its apparent failure in Kobane could put the brakes on its plans for expansion in Syria.

The fighting in Kobane has killed at least 1,600 people, according to the Observatory.

Civilians though were largely spared because the town's residents evacuated en masse, mostly across the border into Turkey, in the early stages of the fighting.

More than 200,000 people have been killed in Syria's complex revolution which began in March 2011 with anti-government protests but later spiralled into a bloody multi-front conflict.

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