Retaking Syria's Kobane a 'big deal': Kerry

WASHINGTON, UNITED STATES- Kurdish fighters' success in recapturing the key Syrian town of Kobane from Islamic State jihadists was a "big deal," US Secretary of State John Kerry said Saturday.
Kerry, speaking during a trilateral meeting with his Mexican and Canadian counterparts in Boston, noted that the IS group has been "forced to acknowledge its own defeat."

Kurdish fighters from the People's Protection Units (YPG) meanwhile were engaged in sporadic battles with IS militants around Kobane as they sought to expand their control in the area.
YPG fighters now control 17 of the hundreds of villages in the Kobane region, with most of them taken since they recaptured the crucial town on the border with Turkey on Monday.
The US-led coalition targeting IS forces said it carried out more than 700 airstrikes since August 8 to help Kurdish fighters drive the militants from Kobane.
While the IS group has been expelled from Kobane, its forces remain scattered throughout the countryside around the town to the southeast and southwest.
"We have a long way to go in the overall campaign, but Daesh -- ISIL as some know it -- has said all along that Kobane was a real symbolic and strategic objective," Kerry said, referring to the IS group.
"So pushing them out of there is a big deal. And make no mistake, we will also use the same tools that we used to get there -- the tools of cooperation and support -- to defeat violent, transnational criminal organizations, and ensure that the rule of law thrives for all of our people."
- 'Hijacking of great faith' -
He called violent extremist acts of terror conducted in the name of Islam "an aberration, a distortion, a hijacking of a great faith."
Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird pressed for allies to "do what we can to stop the cancer of terrorism," saying these violent acts represented an "outrageous affront to our values and an outrageous affront to humanity."
The recapture of Kobane was a major blow against the IS group, which began advancing on the town on September 16 in a bid to secure its control over a long stretch of the Syrian-Turkish border.
At one point it looked poised to overrun the town, but Kurdish forces, backed by repeated US-led air strikes, reclaimed the town after months of heavy fighting.
A statement from the US-led Combined Joint Task Force said the coalition was continuing to bombard IS fighters around the Syrian border town as Kurdish forces aimed to tighten their grip on the region.
More than 280 IS fighting positions have been destroyed since the campaign began in August, along with nearly 100 buildings used by the militants.
Over 60 vehicles and a dozen tanks, along with weapons systems and other equipment had also been destroyed.
"Kurdish ground forces, supported by our air component, were successful in retaking the town of Kobane, which again shows the emptiness of Daesh's claims of invincibility," said Lieutenant General James Terry, the task force's commander.
"The coalition will continue to attack Daesh anywhere they present themselves."
IS meanwhile released a video purportedly showing the beheading of Japanese hostage Kenji Goto.

Sunday, February 1st 2015

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