Kurdish fighters declared victory at Kobane Saturday, claiming to have “utterly repelled” a second major Islamic State group offensive against the key Syrian border town.
At least 60 Islamic State group militants were killed in the failed offensive, which ended when Kurdish fighters overran their last remaining positions in Kobane in the early hours of Saturday morning, according to a statement from the left-wing Kurdish militia, the People's Defense Units (YPG).
Only six YPG deaths were mentioned in the statement, though the Kurdish militia stated the Islamic State group “brutally targeted and killed a large number of unarmed civilian(s).”
While the YPG stated the Islamic State group has again been totally driven from the Syrian border town, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said Sunday fighting was continuing in the countryside around the town. Clashes have been reported in at least three outlying villages, a day after the YPG claimed to have encircled the bulk of Islamic State group fighters in the area.
The Islamic State group's latest assault on Kobane began Thursday, when a vehicle packed with explosives was detonated near a border crossing with Turkey at around midnight, according to SOHR. The monitoring group estimated at least five people were killed in the explosion. The border crossing is often packed with refugees fleeing Syria's civil war. Shortly after the initial blast, fighters from the Islamic State group poured into Kobane, sparking street-by-street fighting with the YPG and its women's brigade, the YPJ.
"Fierce clashes erupted afterwards in the center of the town and there are bodies lying in the streets," SOHR director Rami Abdel Rahman stated at the time.
The sudden offensive came after weeks of victories for the YPG/YPJ over the Islamic State group.
Earlier last week Kurdish forces seized a military base sitting on a key supply route to the Islamic State group's de facto capital, Raqqa.
Nearly a week ago the YPG announced it had taken control of the border town of Tal Abyad from the Islamic State group. Sitting near the frontier with Turkey, the town had been another major supply route for the Islamic State extremists.
The capture of the town also meant a number of Kurdish enclaves straddling the Turkish border had become logistically linked – a significant step forward for the YPG's political ambitions.
The YPG/YPJ aims to carve out political autonomy for regions in Syria's north, where the population is predominantly Kurdish. Unlike most other militias in Syria's civil war, the Kurdish militia claims to be fiercely democratic, organizing towns into popular assemblies, while also supporting women’s rights.
Officers are also said to be democratically elected and the YPJ has been hailed by Kurdish leaders for its central role in the defeat of the Islamic State group in January after the months-long battle over Kobani last year and earlier this year. For months the Islamic State group besieged the town, but was eventually pushed back by Kurdish defenders.