Isis retreat from Kobani: Most of the militants have left the embattled Syrian town, and its residents are eager to return home

But have the jihadis retreated permanently to focus on other fronts, or are they planning to launch a renewed attack?

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The Independent Online

Ferid Wali is eagerly anticipating returning to a Kobani free of Isis, four months after he and his family were forced to flee its advance. He, his wife and three children now live in a small apartment in Suruc, a small town 15 miles north over the border in Turkey.

“It’s hard to pay the rent. The children can’t go to school here. We want to go home,” he told The Independent.

Isis fighters have been driven out of 90 per cent of Kobani, the US said this week. But the battle is not over and the Turkish authorities are keeping the border shut. No journalists are allowed in to Kobani, and nor are any of the 200,000 refugees who have fled the area since September.

“It is still not safe there,” a Turkish official said. “We love our citizens and guests too much to put them in danger.”

Today, the US continued its air strikes on Kobani in an attempt to drive out the last of the Isis forces. Most of the militants have left the city, but it remains unclear whether the group has retreated permanently to focus on other fronts or whether it plans to launch a renewed attack.

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Nonetheless, celebrations among the Kurds are in full flow. The roof of the mosque in the tiny village of Maser, east of the Mursitpinar border crossing, provides a clear view into Kobani and has become a vantage point for observers of the battle in the past months. Now it is once again packed. A giant flag of Abdullah Ocalan, leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and currently in jail in Turkey, hangs behind a newly constructed stage, while a sound system blares out Kurdish independence anthems and speeches.

The reaction from Turkey’s government, on the other hand, has been muted. “Daesh is out,” President Reccep Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday, using the Arabic acronym for Isis. “That is OK, but who will repair the places you have bombed?”

Turkey had initially refused to allow Kurdish forces to enter the city through its borders because of its opposition to the PKK, which fought the Turkish state for independence for 30 years.

Under international pressure, Mr Erdogan eventually allowed Kurdish fighters from Iraqi Kurdistan, known as the peshmerga, to cross Turkish territory to reach Kobani to help. The peshmerga, with their advanced weapons and helped by US air strikes, made a vital difference in the battle for the city.

 

Ibrahim Binici, a lawmaker for the pro-Kurdish party HDP, who walked among the crowd in Maser, said that taking Kobani was “an important victory”, but he acknowledged that the fight against Isis is far from over. “These celebrations are only the beginning. When the villages are free, when Iraq and Syria are free, we will get together again.”

Asya Abdullah, the co-leader of the Democratic Union Party, the Kurdish party known by its acronym PYD, which governs Kobani, said in a statement that the international support for the Kurds’ fight against Kobani must continue.

Meanwhile, Kobani’s residents are looking forward to their eventual return, whatever they might find in the city.

“We will have to live in a tent,” Mr Wali’s wife, Merwa Hami, said, gesturing with her hands to show the likely devastation to their home.

But Mr Wali, who was once a construction engineer, remains optimistic. “It will be hard, but Syria is our country; Kobani our home,” he said. “Maybe we can start reconstructing Kobani soon.”

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