BEIRUT (AP) — Kurdish fighters took full control on Tuesday of the border town of Tal Abyad, dealing a major blow to the Islamic State group’s ability to wage war in Syria.
Haqi Kobane told The Associated Press that Kurdish units known as the YPG along with their allies from the Free Syrian Army were starting to clean up the town along the border with Turkey from booby traps and mines planted by the extremists so that residents can return. The militants had been in control of the key town 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 caused the displacement of some 20,000 people who fled to Turkey in the past two weeks.
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 Tuesday and replaced with a yellow, triangular YPG flag.
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 main Kurdish fighting force, known as the YPG, has seized control of the town along with a contingent 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 toward Tal Abyad, launching concentrated airstrikes that targeted the militants inside and along supply routes.
Copyright 2015 The Associated Press.