Syrian Kurds seize IS-controlled northern town | News | DW | 15.06.2015
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Syrian Kurds seize IS-controlled northern town

In a huge blow to "Islamic State" (IS), Kurdish fighters have taken control of a key border town near the jihadists' bastion, Raqqa. The Kurdish YPG militia said it was pushing ahead to Raqqa helped by US-led airstrikes.

"The Kurdish fighters are in almost full control of Tal Abyad," said Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, on Monday.

There are still some pockets of resistance in the town from where IS jihadists are attacking the Kurdish forces, Rami said.

At least 40 IS fighters have been killed in the battle while others fled Tal Abyad for Ein Issa, another town under IS control.

Tal Abyad is the nearest town to the IS de facto capital of Raqqa. The border town near Turkey is also just 70 kilometers (40 miles) east of the Kurdish-majority town of Kobane, which was liberated by Kurdish forces in January from IS control after months of fighting. Tal Abyad was used by IS militants as a conduit for foreign recruits.

Supply route severed

Earlier on Monday, Syrian Kurdish forces severed a key supply road linking Tal Abyad to Raqqa.

"The Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) have cut the route" and have surrounded the town along the Syrian-Turkish border, said Kurdish commander Hussein Khojer.

"There is nowhere Daesh can escape to," Khojer told the AFP news agency, using the Arabic acronym for IS. He said the strategically-important town was attacked from two sides with the help of Syrian rebel groups.

"The YPG units from Kobane (in the west) and Jazira (in the east) met up south of Tal Abyad," he explained.

Sunni militant organization IS has captured vast swathes of territory in Syria and Iraq. The Iraqi forces and Syrian rebels have thwarted their advance in many areas with the help of the US air power.

IS given 'a beating'

An envoy for the US-led aerial coalition earlier confirmed that Kurdish fighters in northern Syria were scoring territorial gains against IS jihadists and were "very close" to severing a supply route to Raqqa.

Brett McGurk, the coalition's US deputy special envoy, speaking on NBC's "Meet the Press" program, said Kurdish and other units were giving IS a "beating."

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Kurdish fighters had captured more villages on Sunday near Tal Abyad.

The jihadists had blown up bridges southeast and southwest of Tal Abyad to prevent the YPG from pushing forward, the observatory added.

Desperate scenes at border crossing

Fearing a major battle around Tal Abyad, Kurdish and Arab civilians, many carrying possessions, had clamored behind barbed wire for entry into Turkey.

Turkish troops initially fired water cannon and even pepper spray to keep them at bay, but hours later, Turkey's government reversed its decision and allowed in the waiting refugees.

shs/ipj (Dpa, AFP, Reuters)

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