MIDDLE EAST

Monitor: Kurdish forces seize 70% of Kobane

Smoke and flames billow following an explosion in the Syrian town of Kobane. (File: AFP)

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group has lost ground in the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobane, where Kurdish forces have now regained control of about 70 percent of territory, a group monitoring the war said on Wednesday.

The People’s Protection Units (YPG), backed by U.S.-led air strikes, were able to push back ISIS fighters after months of besiege, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

YPG made significant advances overnight on Tuesday after violent clashes with ISIS in the south of town.

Also on Wednesday, the U.S.-led coalition launched seven air strikes targeting ISIS fighters in Syria, five of which were near Kobane, and three in Iraq. ISIS controls large swathes of land in Iraq accounting to almost a third of the country.

U.S.-led forces have bombed ISIS positions around the predominantly Kurdish town almost every day this month.

Known as Ayn al-Arab in Arabic, the town has become a symbol in the fight between the ultra-hardline ISIS and its enemies in Iraq and Syria. Hundreds of ISIS fighters launched a sustained attack on the town more than three months ago.

The Observatory, which gathers its information from sources in Syria, said Kurdish fighters now control southern and central parts of the town as well as most of the west in an area stretching up to the border.

Rami Abdulrahman, who runs the Observatory, said Kobane was the only clear example of U.S.-led forces cooperating with fighters on the ground in Syria to push back ISIS.

"There are air strikes every day, they have destroyed many ISIS bases in Kobane. If there had been no air strikes then I think Kobane would have been controlled by ISIS by now," he said. He added Kurdish forces were close to controlling all of the town, thanks to the overnight gains in strategic positions.

The United States says it wants to train and equip "moderate" rebel groups to fight ISIS on the ground elsewhere in Syria but rebels say there is much uncertainty surrounding the plans.

[With Reuters]

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Last Update: Wednesday, 31 December 2014 KSA 21:24 - GMT 18:24
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Monitor: Kurdish forces seize 70% of Kobane
YPG made significant advances overnight on Tuesday after violent clashes with ISIS in the south of town
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