Middle East

Syria Islamic State: Kurds 'claim control over Kobane'

A boy on a bike watches smoke over the Syrian town of Kobane from Turkish territory, 27 June Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Smoke could still be seen over Kobane on Saturday, from Turkish territory

Islamic State (IS) militants have been driven out of the town of Kobane, on the Turkish border, Kurdish forces and activists say.

IS launched a surprise assault on the long-contested town on Thursday, reportedly massacring civilians, including women and children.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says 206 bodies were found, most with bullet wounds.

Kurdish forces broke an IS siege of Kobane only in January.

Meanwhile, fighting is reportedly continuing in the Syrian city of Hassakeh, about 270km (180 miles) further east, which was also attacked by IS on Thursday.

Troops loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and their allies are tackling the militants after fighting which, according to UN figures, saw some 60,000 people flee.

Overall, in four years of armed conflict in Syria, more than 200,000 people have lost their lives and more than 11 million others - nearly half the population - have been forced from their homes.

'Last stand'

Smoke could still be seen rising over Kobane on Saturday.

Redur Xelil, spokesman for the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, told Reuters news agency that around eight IS members had escaped north towards the Turkish border.

"There are still search operations in neighbourhoods where they might be hiding," he added. "The town is quiet now."

An activist in Kobane, Mustafa Bali, told AP news agency by telephone that Kobane had been "completely cleared".

"Kurdish forces are now combing the town looking for fighters who may have gone into hiding," he added.

As the civilian death toll rose during searches on Saturday, local journalist Rudi Mohammad Amin told AFP news agency more people were still unaccounted for.

The militants, he said, had made their last stand in an apparently unoccupied boys' secondary school.

"The YPG detonated explosives outside of the school, then stormed it," he said. "This military operation was carried out after ensuring that there were no civilians left in the school."

Unconfirmed reports say Kurdish civilians began returning to the town from across the border in Turkey on Saturday.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Civilians could be seen heading back towards Kobane

Erdogan warning

IS launched its two-pronged offensive after the YPG cut off one of its major supply routes near the city of Raqqa.

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Media captionA CCTV camera from the Turkish side of the border captured a car bomb blast in Kobane

The city is the de facto capital of the IS "caliphate", declared a year ago after the group captured large swathes of northern and western Iraq and parts of Syria.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has pledged never to allow Kurds to establish their own state in northern Syria.

"I say to the international community that whatever price must be paid, we will never allow the establishment of a new state on our southern frontier in the north of Syria," he said at a dinner on Friday night.

The Turkish leader also rejected accusations that Turkey had colluded with IS in its attack on Kobane this week. "It is a big lie to accuse Turkey of having link with a terrorist organisation," he said.