January 26, 2015 / 12:52 PM / 3 years ago

Kurds close to driving Islamic State out of Syria's Kobani: monitor

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BEIRUT (Reuters) - Kurdish fighters, backed by U.S.-led air strikes, are close to regaining full control of the Syrian town of Kobani near the Turkish border from Islamic State fighters, a group monitoring Syria's war and a Kurdish official said on Monday.

The town, also known as Ayn al-Arab, has become a symbol in the battle against the hardline Sunni Muslim insurgents who have captured large expanses of Iraq and Syria. Islamic State launched a campaign to capture the town in July.

Syrian Kurdish YPG forces, who have been often backed up by Iraqi Kurdish forces known as peshmerga, are still battling Islamic State on the eastern outskirts of the town, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

It added that the YPG was proceeding carefully because Islamic State fighters had planted mines before fleeing the town.

"Our forces are making progress but until now the YPG has not declared that is has taken all of Kobani back. We think tomorrow Kobani will be free," Kobani official Idris Nassan told Reuters by telephone.

Nassan said that half of the town had been completely destroyed and much of the rest of it had suffered damage, leaving many homeless. He said the town lacked water, electricity, hospitals and food.

U.S.-led forces have bombed Islamic State positions around the predominantly Kurdish town almost every day this month.

The United States says it wants to train and equip mainstream rebel groups to fight Islamic State elsewhere in Syria but fighters say there is uncertainty surrounding the plans.

Reporting by Sylvia Westall in Beirut and Dasha Afanasieva in Istanbul,; Editing by Andrew Heavens

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