Kurds expel ISIL from Kobane as Iraq retakes Diyala
BEIRUT - Agence France-Presse
AFP PhotoKurdish fighters have reportedly expelled the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) jihadists from the Syrian border town of Kobane after more than four months of fighting, while Iraqi forces announced landmark gains in the eastern Iraqi province of Diyala.
Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told AFP that fighters from the People’s Protection Units (YPG) had “expelled all Islamic State fighters from Kobane and have full control of the town.”
“The Kurds are pursuing some jihadists on the eastern outskirts of Kobane, but there is no more fighting inside now.”
The loss of Kobane, also known as Ayn al-Arab, would be a key symbolic blow against ISIL, which has lost more than 1,000 fighters trying to capture the town since Sept. 16, 2014.
At one time it looked set to overrun the town, which lies on the Syrian-Turkish border, with its superior firepower and waves of foreign fighters.
But Kurdish fighters backed by U.S.-led air strikes have gradually pushed back the jihadists, with analysts saying the loss could put the brakes on their plans for expansion in Syria.
On the same day, a top army officer announced that Iraqi forces have “liberated” Diyala from the ISIL, retaking all populated areas of the eastern province.
“We announce the liberation of Diyala from the (ISIL) organization,” Staff Lt.-Gen. Abdulamir al-Zaidi said.
Iraqi forces have regained “complete control of all the cities and districts and sub districts of Diyala province,” he said.
The last battle for a populated part of the province took place from Jan. 23 to yesterday in the Muqdadiyah area, northeast of Diyala capital Baquba.
Zaidi and district council chief Adnan al-Tamimi both said Iraqi forces were in control of the entire area, which includes the town of Muqdadiyah and various villages, where the fighting took place.
Zaidi said 58 members of pro-government forces were killed and 248 were wounded in the fighting, while “more than 50” ISIL fighters died.
ISIL spearheaded a lightning militant offensive that began in the northern city of Mosul in June and swept down to overrun much of Iraq’s Sunni Arab heartland.
Iraqi federal forces, Kurdish troops, Shiite militiamen and Sunni tribesmen are all fighting against the jihadists in various parts of the country.
A U.S.-led coalition is carrying out air strikes against ISIL in both Iraq and Syria, as well as advising and training Iraqi forces.