First Syrian refugees return to Tal Abyad after ISIS defeat

Syrian refugee boys carry food as they cross into Turkey at the Akcakale border gate in Sanliurfa province, Turkey, June 16, 2015. (Reuters)

The first Syrian refugees returned to the border town of Tal Abyad from Turkey Wednesday after it was liberated from the Islamic State (IS) group, an AFP journalist reported.

Kurdish forces took the strategic town on Tuesday after several days of intense fighting, which sparked an exodus of more than 23,000 refugees into neighbouring Turkey.

Some 200 men, women and children carrying their meagre possessions crossed back into Syria through the Turkish border post of Akcakale.

The Kurds and their Syrian rebel allies launched a two-pronged attack on Tal Abyad on June 11, backed by air strikes by the US-led coalition fighting IS in Syria and Iraq.

The new Kurdish victory, coming months after Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) drove the militants from Kobane, has alarmed Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who warned Sunday of the "creation of a structure that threatens our borders".

Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc also accused YPG fighters of "ethnic cleansing" in northern Syria as they drove IS back.

Ankara accuses the YPG -- the military wing of the Syrian Democratic Union Party (PYD) -- of being the Syrian offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has been waging an insurgency inside Turkey since 1984.
 

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Last Update: 12:40 KSA 15:40 - GMT 12:40
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