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Asia Today ISSN 1861-4604 Monday, February 19, 2018

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Kurds regain control of strategic Kobani border town of Syria

Battle over Kobani

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BEIRUT, Lebanon - Kurdish fighters have seized the control over Kobani and were advancing further after chasing away Islamic State fighters who had besieged the Syrian border town in September last year, activists and US officials said.

But the United States, which has been launching aerial-strikes against the Islamic State militants, said the battle over Kobani was still not over.

"I am not prepared to say the battle there is won. The battle continues. But as of now, friendly forces ... I believe, have the momentum," said Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steve Warren.

US defense officials said that Kurdish fighters now control about 90 percent of the Syrian city that falls on the Syrian-Turkish border. The city holds strategic importance because whoever controls it also gets a control over a major border crossing.

The US Central Command congratulated the Kurdish fighters for their aggressive fight with fortitude. It said that the loss of Kobani was a failure for Islamic State and dealt a serious blow to the Islamist fighters who still control large swathes of Syrian and Iraqi territories.

Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the Syrian Observatory, told AFP that Kurdish fighters had "expelled all Islamic State fighters from Kobani and have full control of the town."

But "the Kurds are pursuing some jihadists on the eastern outskirts of Kobani, but there is no more fighting inside now," he said.

As soon as the news of the Kobani recapture spread, jubilant residents began trickling back to the city early Tuesday celebrating what became a major symbol of resistance against the Islamist militants.

But officials warned that the militants were still present in villages around Kobani, much of which is in ruins now. Thousands of people are homeless and there are no hospitals, water, power or food.

The city needs a massive reconstruction after more than four months of fierce fighting.

Hundreds of thousands of people in the city and surrounding villages had fled across the border into Turkey after the fight began Sep 16 following a major offensive by Islamists in July.

The Syrian Observatory said Islamic State fighters have planted mines in the city.

The battle for Kobani has killed about 1,600 people, including 1,075 Islamic State group members, 459 Kurdish fighters and 32 civilians, according to the Observatory.

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