Syrian Kurds take town from Islamists: watchdog

BEIRUT Sat Feb 22, 2014 11:05am EST

A rebel fighter carries a weapon as he inspects a site hit by what activists said was a barrel bomb dropped by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in Aleppo's al-Saliheen district February 21, 2014. REUTERS/Stringer

A rebel fighter carries a weapon as he inspects a site hit by what activists said was a barrel bomb dropped by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in Aleppo's al-Saliheen district February 21, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Stringer

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BEIRUT (Reuters) - A Kurdish group captured a town in Syria from Islamists on Saturday in a battle in which at least 28 fighters were killed, most of them Islamists, a monitoring group reported

If the Kurds can keep hold of Tal Brak, on a highway between the cities of Hassaka and Qamishli, it would mark a significant advance in their quest for wider control in the northeast.

Online Islamist activists said fighting was still going on, but the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the Kurdish People's Protection Units had taken the town.

Syrian Kurds have expanded their sway in the northeast, where they are setting up their own administration, since the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad began three years ago.

The People's Protection Units said in a statement they had taken Tal Brak after a midnight assault on fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and other militants.

It said Kurdish fighters were in possession of the bodies of 16 of the 50 "armed mercenaries" they had killed, and had taken 42 prisoners. It said three Kurdish fighters had also been killed.

The Syrian Observatory, an opposition-affiliated watchdog, said at least 25 Islamists had been killed.

Redur Xelil, spokesman for the People's Protection Units, said: "The operation was over at 5 a.m. and the armed groups and mercenaries that were there were expelled."

"The town is completely controlled by the People's Protection Units," he told Reuters by telephone, adding that nearby villages were also under the group's control.

BLOODY BATTLE AROUND NEW YEAR

Islamists have eclipsed secular groups in the revolt against Assad, but are also now at war with each other in much of Syria, with the Nusra Front and other Islamists fighting ISIL - a group disavowed by al Qaeda. They have also fought the Kurds.

Long oppressed by Damascus, the Kurds have been largely left to their own devices by Syrian government forces fighting rebels elsewhere. That has drawn accusations that they have made a de facto alliance with Assad - a charge the Kurds deny.

The People's Protection Units fought fierce battles with the Islamists in the Tal Brak area around the turn of the year, when the Observatory said 60 fighters - 39 from the People's Protection Units and 21 Islamists - were killed.

Rami Abdelrahman, the Observatory's founder, said Tal Brak's proximity to the Iraqi border meant that losing it was a blow to the Islamist groups that bring supplies from Iraq.

On Twitter, one Islamist activist said the battle was not over. "The clashes are continuing ... in Tal Brak. The (Kurdish) militia has not seized complete control," wrote the activist, who describes himself as a media activist from the area.

The Observatory reported battles in areas outside the town.

The People's Protection Units said they had seized four vehicles from the Islamists, as well as heavy machineguns and other weapons, in Tal Brak.

Kurds in Syria, who number around 2 million, declared their provincial government in the northeast on January 21.

While local leaders say they have no plans for secession, their push for autonomy has unnerved neighboring Turkey, which faces similar demands from its own Kurdish population.

(Clarifies paragraph 6)

(Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Alistair Lyon)

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Comments (3)
kurdstaat wrote:
Kurd State will be recognized by 2020 and the entire world has to recognize it.
The terrorist Turks have no choice but to end the occupation of Kurd State and end their terrorism and genocide against Aryan Kurds.

NATO must stop its genocide against the Kurds and recognize the Kurdish nation’s right to Statehood.

Feb 22, 2014 2:06pm EST  --  Report as abuse
carlmartel wrote:
The Kurds fight for their province in Syria, but Turkey is unlikely to allow an independent Kurdish country. Iran will not give up its Kurdish area, and Iraq has threatened ExxonMobil with penalties for developing oil fields and a pipeline for the Kurdish provinces in north Iraq. The boundaries were drawn by Britain and France after WWI and modified by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk’s victories. This is one more reason that it was good for the US to leave Iraq in 2011, and it would have been better if the US had never bombed, invaded, and occupied Iraq in the first place. The war was a waste of troops, equipment, fuel, and money.

Feb 22, 2014 6:24pm EST  --  Report as abuse
bearvarine wrote:
If the Kurds want their own state, the strategy is simple. Just raise a militia powerful enough to defeat Syria, Iraq, Iran and Turkey in a ground war. Honestly that is what it will take. None of these states will ever willingly give up any land. Sorry Kurds, it must suck to be walked on by powerful civilizations around you. Hey, maybe you could befriend the Isrealis. They might even help you, since your predicament is not unlike theirs.

Feb 26, 2014 10:35am EST  --  Report as abuse
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