After two days of fierce battle that resulted in the death of about 200 people, Syrian Kurdish forces regained control of the town of Kobani, located near the country’s border with Turkey, on Saturday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said in a statement. On Thursday, ISIS had launched fresh attacks on the Syrian town.
The news of ISIS being pushed back comes just hours after reports of an explosion near the center of the town. While the cause of the explosion was not immediately clear, an Iraqi television network reported that a building which had been previously a base for Doctors Without Borders had been blown up.
The Observatory, however, said that the explosion was caused by the Kurdish forces while they were attempting to destroy “parts of a school where ISIS militants were hiding since yesterday dawn.”
Monitoring groups and analysts claim that the attack on Kobani might have been an attempt to divert Kurdish forces from Raqqa -- the capital of the militant group’s so-called caliphate. According to latest reports, Kurdish fighters and their allies -- aided by U.S.-led airstrikes -- are now less than 30 miles from Raqqa.
“I assume that the main purpose of the attack was almost certainly not to take and hold Kobani, but to throw the Kurds off balance and force them to divert forces to protect Kobani and other rear areas,” Yezid Sayegh, an expert at the Carnegie Middle East Centre in Beirut, told the Guardian. “Consequently, ISIS didn’t need to use large numbers of fighters, just enough to do something dramatic -- easily done by attacking a ‘soft’ target such as civilians.”
Members of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) had, in January, recaptured Kobani after four months of protracted and bloody battle with ISIS. Since then, many of the hundreds of thousands of residents of the town, who had fled across the border into Turkey to escape the fighting, have returned. According to the Observatory, over 170 civilians, including many children, were among those killed in the fresh clashes.