Kurds cap­ture key IS-held bor­der town in Syria


Kur­dish fight­ers took full con­trol of the bor­der town of Tal Abyad on Tues­day, deal­ing a ma­jor blow to the Is­lamic State group’s abil­ity to wage war in Syria by cut­ting off a vi­tal sup­ply line to its self-pro­claimed cap­i­tal of Raqqa.

A se­nior Kur­dish com­man­der, Haqi Kobane, told The As­so­ci­ated Press that Kur­dish units known as the YPG that he leads, along with their al­lies from the Free Syr­ian Army, were start­ing to clear booby traps and mines in the town along the bor­der with Tur­key. The ex­trem­ists had been in con­trol of it for more than a year.

“Daesh has been bro­ken at the hands of the YPG ... It is a vic­tory for all Syr­i­ans,” he said by tele­phone from north­ern Syria, us­ing the Ara­bic acro­nym for the Is­lamic State group.

The Kur­dish ad­vance has dis­placed some 23,000 peo­ple who fled to Tur­key to es­cape the fight­ing, ac­cord­ing to the United Na­tions refugee agency, UNHCR, in Tur­key. Around 70 per­cent are women and chil­dren.

An As­so­ci­ated Press team on the Turk­ish side of the Ak­cakale bor­der cross­ing said a large black and white Is­lamic State group flag was taken down from a pole in Tal Abyad and re­placed with a yel­low, tri­an­gu­lar YPG flag Tues­day.

The bor­der was calm, in sharp con­trast to pre­vi­ous days when thou­sands of Syr­i­ans poured into the bor­der cross­ing, some punch­ing a hole in the fence to break into Tur­key. On Tues­day, a few civil­ians were seen walk­ing around, along with some peo­ple on the Turk­ish side ap­par­ently wait­ing to go back into Syria.

The Syr­ian Ob­ser­va­tory for Hu­man Rights also con­firmed Tues­day that the YPG seized the town with the Free Syr­ian Army.

The takeover of Tal Abyad marks the big­gest set­back yet to the Is­lamic State group, which lost a key sup­ply line for its nearby self-pro­claimed cap­i­tal in Raqqa. It de­prives the group of a di­rect route for bring­ing in for­eign mil­i­tants and sup­plies, and links the Kurds’ two fronts, putting even more pres­sure on Raqqa.

The U.S. pro­vided cru­cial air cover for the Kurds in their ad­vance, launch­ing con­cen­trated airstrikes that tar­geted the mil­i­tants in­side and along sup­ply routes.

The Is­lamic State de­feat in Tal Abyad is a stun­ning re­ver­sal of for­tunes for the group, which only last month cap­tured the pro­vin­cial cap­i­tal of Ra­madi in Iraq’s An­bar province and the his­toric town of Palmyra in cen­tral Syria.

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