Islamic State: Kurds expel militants from key town of Kobane
Celebratory gunfire echoed across the strategic border town as Kurdish forces raised their flag in victory
Kurdish forces say they have successfully expelled Islamic State fighters from the embattled Syrian border town of Kobane with the help of US-led airstrikes.
"Congratulations to humanity, Kurdistan, and the people of Kobane on the liberation of Kobane," the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) spokesman Polat Jan declared on social media.
US Central Command said the YPG now controlled 90 per cent of the town and congratulated the Kurdish fighters on the victory, but said there was still a long way to go before the jihadists were defeated.
"While the fight against Isil (IS) is far from over, Isil's failure in Kobane has denied them one of their strategic objectives," it said.
At least 1,800 people are believed to have died in the four-month siege, prompting much of the civilian population to flee to neighbouring Turkey, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The victory in Kobane is seen as a symbolic and strategic blow to IS, which controls swathes of territory across Iraq and Syria. The town serves as a key access route into Turkey and has been at the centre of much of the fighting in the region.
If Kobane were under IS control, the militants would be in a position where they would "directly threaten" Turkey, a key Nato-ally, the New York Times reports. A setback in Kobane would have exposed "the fragility of the American plan and hand the Islamic State an important victory," it says.
However, their defeat in Kobane "does not necessarily mean [IS] are losing overall," warns the BBC's Paul Wood. "Syrian opposition sources say IS actually have more territory under their control now than when the United States and its allies started bombing, last August," he points out.