Kobani civilian toll crosses 200 before ISIL driven out

Kurdish fighter find more bodies in flushing operations after repelling assault launched on Thursday.

A Turkish soldier watches from Suruc, Sanliurfa province, as smoke rises from the Syrian town of Kobani across the border on June 27, 2015. Bulent Kilic / AFP
Powered by automated translation

BEIRUT // Kurdish forces have driven out ISIL fighters from the Syrian border town of Kobani, after a killing spree by the extremists left more than 200 civilians dead.

Fighters from the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) stormed ISIL’s last remaining position on Saturday, taking full control of the town.

As they combed the streets looking for fugitive militants from the group, the Kurdish fighters found more bodies, taking the civilian death toll to 206, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitoring group, said.

However, local journalist Rudi Mohammad Amin said that more civilians were still unaccounted for.

The militants made their last stand in a boys’ high school building.

“The YPG detonated explosives outside of the school, then stormed it,” Mr Amin said from a position near Kobani.

“This military operation was carried out after ensuring that there were no civilians left in the school.”

Mr Amin said he believed that all of the ISIL fighters inside the school had been killed.

The militants had entered Kobani at dawn on Thursday disguised in YPG uniforms and seized several buildings in the south and south-west of the town.

The YPG soon surrounded the buildings but it took two days to re-establish control.

Some of the civilians killed were felled in the streets by rocket or sniper fire, while others were executed in their homes.

Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said that the bodies found on Saturday bore bullet marks and appeared to include entire families.

“The bodies were found littered in homes and in the streets, laying here and there,” he said.

The ISIL operation was widely seen as vengeance for a series of defeats at the hands of Kurdish fighters, particularly the extremists’ loss of Tal Abyad, another border town further east, on June 16.

“ISIL doesn’t want to take over the town. They just came to kill the highest number of civilians in the ugliest ways possible,” local journalist Mostafa Ali said on Friday.

Sixteen Kurdish fighters and 54 ISIL militants were also killed.

Mr Abdel Rahman said ISIL had achieved its objective in the town.

“You cannot call this last operation a real defeat for ISIL, because it did what it wanted to in Kobani,” he said.

In January, Kurdish forces backed by rebel groups and US-led air strikes pushed ISIL out of Kobani after four months of fierce fighting in a hugely symbolic defeat for the extremists.

Further east, government forces clashed with ISIL for a third day in the northeastern provincial capital of Hassakeh.

The fighting largely took place in the city’s south, where ISIL seized control of two neighbourhoods on Thursday.

YPG fighters, who share control of the city with government forces, joined the fighting late on Friday. However, the YPG says it does not coordinate with the Syrian army and allied militia.

ISIL previously attempted to seize Hassakeh last month, but was pushed back by government forces.

According to the United Nations, 60,000 people have been displaced by the fighting in the city, which had a pre-war population of 300,000.

On Friday, information minister Omran Zohbi called on “anyone who is capable of carrying a gun” to join the resistance in Hassakeh.

“Protecting the city of Hassakeh from the terrorist takfiri (extremist Sunni) attacks is a duty shared among all the sons of the city”, Mr Zohbi said.

Meanwhile, in the southern city of Deraa, fighting continued between government forces and rebel groups, including Al Qaeda’s Syria affiliate, Jabhat Al Nusra.

Since Thursday, 60 rebels and 18 government loyalists have been killed in the fighting, as well as 11 civilians.

* Agence France-Presse