U.S.-backed Kurdish fighters took control of a strategic town on the Syria-Turkey border Monday, forcing ISIS militants to flee and cutting off a key supply line to the self-proclaimed caliphate’s capital.
The Washington Post reported that the main Kurdish fighting force, known as the YPG, backed by affiliated Syrian rebels, had captured the town of Tal Abyad, claiming control of the town center by nightfall Monday. The Post also reported that the advancing forces had cut off ISIS’ escape route from the town, surrounding it from the east, south, and west.
The loss of Tal Abyad, some 50 miles north of Raqqa, the capital of ISIS’ self-declared caliphate, is the extremists’ biggest setback since Kurdish fighters took control of the border town of Kobani near Turkey, after fighting IS for months. The Kurdish victory deprives ISIS of a direct route for bringing in foreign militants and supplies, and links the Kurds’ two fronts, putting even more pressure on Raqqa.
An anti-ISIS media collective based in Raqqa said the extremists had set up checkpoints in the center of the city on Monday and installed security cameras in a main square.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed to the Associated Press the that Kurdish fighters had “almost full control” of Tal Abyad by Monday evening, and had taken command of the border crossing with Turkey. It said some 40 Islamic State militants were targeted by U.S.-led airstrikes as they tried to flee south.
An AP photographer in Akcakale, on the Turkish side of the border, saw several dozen YPG fighters waving their yellow triangular flag and flashing victory signs. Earlier, several dozen Kurdish gunmen were seen running up a hill, moving west.