26 Jan 2015

Kurds ‘take full control’ of Kobani from Islamic State

Kurdish forces are reported to have defeated Islamic State fighters to take full control of the symbolic Syrian town of Kobani, in what could be seen as vindication of US-led coalition airstrikes.

Kobani on 16 January 2015

Above: Kobani on 16 January 2015

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said “trusted sources” had reported that the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), under the leadership of Mahmoud Barkhdan, had taken “full control” of Kobani.

Kurdish forces were said to have seized “wide areas” of the neighbourhood of Maqtala – the last area Islamic State fighters occupied – though it was reported that “clashes continue” in the neighbourhood where Islamic State fighters are thought to have planted dozens of landmines.

The pushed back gained momentum earlier this year when it was reported that Kurdish fighters had regained control of 80 per cent of the town.

The claim was being disputed by some Islamic State Twitter accounts on Monday that said fierce fighting continues in the town.

However, footage also showed Kurdish fighters raising the YPG flag where an Islamic State flag had previously flown.

Kobani has become symbolically important since Islamic State fighters first began their attack on the town in September 2014.

Strategically important because of its proximity to Turkey’s border, the town also became the target of propaganda campaign by both sides.

The Islamic State group filmed with British hostage John Cantlie in the town, in a bid to show Islamic State’s control of the area.

A pro-YPG Twitter campaign targeted Islamic State Twitter accounts with pictures of female YPG fighters in Kobani.

For the US and its coalition partners, the importance of Kobani can be seen in the intense airstrikes campaign that supported the Kurdish fighters.

Operation Inherent Resolve, the coalition campaign against the Islamic State group, has hit the Islamic State hundreds of times around Kobani.

In total, 410 airstrikes have hit Iraq and Syria this year, and 44 per cent of those were in Kobani. Of the Syria airstrikes alone, more than 80 per cent were in the border town.

The attack on Kobani, known as Ayn al-Arab in Arabic, has sent a flood of refugees over the border into Turkey. Last year the UN Refugee Agency said more than 190,000 Syrians had fled Kobani.