Residents trickle back to Syria’s Kobani as Daesh expelled

An estimated 200,000 people living in Kobani and surrounding villages had fled across the border into Turkey after the fight for the town began on September 16.

By (AFP)

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Published: Tue 27 Jan 2015, 6:15 PM

Last updated: Thu 25 Jun 2015, 10:07 PM

Jubilant residents began trickling back to Kobani on Tuesday after Kurdish fighters drove Daesh group from the Syrian border town, which became a major symbol of resistance against militants.

But officials warned that Daesh militants were still present in villages around Kobani, and that massive reconstruction was needed in the devastated town after more than four months of fighting.

Its recapture has deprived Daesh of a strategic prize on the frontier with Turkey.

An estimated 200,000 people living in Kobani and surrounding villages had fled across the border into Turkey after the fight for the town began on September 16.

The Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) announced the “liberation” of Kobani on Monday.

“Our forces fulfilled the promise of victory,” the militia said in a statement, cautioning that fighting in the area was not over yet.

“The process to ultimately liberate Kobani canton (region) is ahead of us. We pledge that we will successfully carry out this promise as well.”

There was fighting in villages around the town on Tuesday, both to the southeast and the southwest, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor.

Kobani activist Mustafa Ebdi said the US-led coalition fighting Daesh carried out fresh air strikes around the town on Monday evening and Tuesday morning.

After a night of celebration, the first residents of Kobani began to return to the town on Tuesday, although in small numbers.

“People are very glad. They are celebrating. Morale is very high,” said Idris Nassan, deputy foreign minister for the local Kobani regional government, speaking from inside the town.

But he said the local government was urging residents to wait before going home.

“There is massive destruction. At least 50 per cent of the city is destroyed,” he said.

“We are asking them to wait and not come immediately because we don’t have basic necessities for them. There is no food, no medicine. We don’t have electricity or water.”

Nassan said the local government would now appeal to the international community for help.

“We need aid. We need experts for reconstruction. We also need weaponry to continue to fight,” he said.

“This is the first stage, the liberation of Kobani. The next stage is the liberation of the villages.”

The expulsion of Daesh from Kobani marks a key symbolic blow against the group, which set its sights on the town in a bid to expand its control over a stretch of the Turkey-Syria border.

As the Kurdish militia raised their flags over Kobani, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country opposed the idea of a Kurdish-controlled autonomous government in northern Syria.

“We do not want a new Iraq. What’s this? Northern Iraq,” Erdogan told Turkey’s Hurriyet newspaper.

“A northern Syria there after northern Iraq... It is not possible for us to accept this,” he said.

At one point, the militant group looked poised to take control of the town.

It vastly outgunned the YPG forces, wielding sophisticated weaponry captured from Iraqi and Syrian military bases and fielding fighters from around the world.

It lost nearly 1,200 fighters in the battle for Kobani, of a total of nearly 1,800 killed, according to the Observatory.

Analysts said air strikes by the US-led coalition had been key to the Kurdish success, taking out some of the militants’ heavier weaponry and hitting their supply routes.

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