BEIRUT (Reuters) - Kurdish forces have regained control of around 70 percent of the Syrian town of Kobani near the Turkish border after pushing back Islamic State fighters that have spent months besieging it, a group monitoring the war said on Wednesday.
Backed by U.S-led air strikes, Kurdish forces made significant advances overnight on Tuesday after violent clashes with Islamic State in the south of the town, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Known as Ayn al-Arab in Arabic, the town has became a symbol in the fight between the ultra hardline Islamic State group and its enemies in Iraq and Syria. Hundreds of Islamic State fighters launched a sustained attack on the town more than three months ago.
U.S.-led forces have bombed Islamic State positions around the predominantly Kurdish town almost every day this month.
The Observatory, which gathers its information from sources in Syria, said Kurdish fighters now control southern and central parts of the town as well as most of the west in an area stretching up to the border.
Rami Abdulrahman, who runs the Observatory, said Kobani was the only clear example of U.S-led forces cooperating with fighters on the ground in Syria to push back Islamic State.
“There are air strikes every day, they have destroyed many Islamic State bases in Kobani. If there had been no air strikes then I think Kobani would have been controlled by Islamic State by now,” he said. He added Kurdish forces were close to controlling all of the town, thanks to the overnight gains in strategic positions.
The United States says it wants to train and equip “moderate” rebel groups to fight Islamic State on the ground elsewhere in Syria but rebels say there is much uncertainty surrounding the plans.
Reporting by Sylvia Westall; Editing by Dominic Evans