On Monday, the same day Kurdish fighters in Syria decisively broke the Islamic State's bloody and sustained siege of Kobane, a senior leader of the extremist group called for jihadists to carry out fresh Paris-style attacks across Europe.
Fireworks lit up the dark night in Turkish and Syrian towns and refugee camps across the border from the embattled Syrian town of Kobane Monday night, while elated Kurdish residents bearing flame torches flooded the streets, celebrating the liberation of their friends, family, and neighbors, who until earlier that morning had been under militant control since September. In the distance, the Kurdish flag flapped silently on a hill east of Kobane — a declaration of the resilience of peshmerga fighters and rebel brigades who had fought deadly battles to drive out the extremists for four months.
While Syrian monitors reported that sporadic clashes continued in the city's east on Monday, US Central Command (Centcom) later confirmed that ground forces backed by coalition airstrikes had retaken control of 90 percent of the city.
Since the US-led airstrike campaign began in Kobane in September, coalition warplanes have typically conducted three to five daily strikes. But Centcom said Monday that 17 US airstrikes had hit militant targets near the city within the last 24 hours. The intensified fighting resulted in some 1,600 casualties from both sides, most of whom were militants, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
CENTCOM confirms the Kurds control over 90% of Kobani.
— CG PAO (@CENTCOMCGPAO)January 26, 2015
The counter-offensive has been building since September, when Islamic State (IS) fighters moved in on the city and surrounding areas, imposing their own brutal brand of Sharia and forcing tens of thousands of resident to flee to refugee camps in neighboring Turkey and nearby Syrian towns.
Rudaw, a Kurdish news organization, released footage on January 27 showing flags associated with Kurdish forces being raised over Kobane, including on a hill to the east of the town.
At one point, Kurdish fighters estimated the militant group controlled 75 percent of the city. But after Kurdish troops forced many militants to retreat to surrounding cities on Monday, local officials declared the victory the beginning of a nearing defeat for the jihadist group.
"Daesh [the Islamic State] took most of the places it wanted in Syria and Iraq but could not capture Kobane," said Anwar Muslim, the prime minister of the self-ruled administration of Kobane, referring to the group by an acronym for the group's name in Arabic.
"This victory marks the beginning of the end for Daesh," he added.
But news of the accomplishment had barely settled before IS issued new calls to "Muslims in Europe and the infidel West to attack the Crusaders where they are."
In a nine-minute video titled "die in your rage," chief spokesperson Abu Mohammed al-Adnani referred to recent attacks staged in Australia, Canada, Belgium, and France, where gunmen with ties to the Islamic State and al Qaeda shot and killed 17 people in assaults earlier this month on the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and at a kosher supermarket.
Since the group began its violent offensive to take vast swathes of land in Iraq and Syria in June, IS has sought to wage a battle of ideology and propaganda to attract fighters from across the world, releasing a series of increasingly elaborate films touting the capture of certain towns and hostages.
In one video filmed in Kobane in October, John Cantlie, a British photojournalist being held hostage by the militants, declares that the city is essentially under Islamic State control and that the militants are "mopping up now."
Marina Ottaway, senior Middle East scholar at the Wilson Center told VICE News that while coalition forces have made significant headway in Kobane, "It is by no means a turning point in the battle against the Islamic State."
Ottaway said the city's "liberation" was not a crucial loss to the militants.
"It was a huge symbolic loss, but it was not an important strategic loss. It was not going to open a strategic corridor, like Sinjar," she said, referring to a town in Iraq's Nineveh province near Mount Sinjar, which was declared "liberated" by Kurdish peshmerga last month.
"Kobane is a battle that [IS] have been losing for a long time," she said. "It's less of a complete victory, because the fact is that the militants are still in the villages around the city."
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