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Syrian Kurds Capture Town from Islamists

Kurdish group captures Tal Brak after fighting jihadists from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 2/23/2014, 2:26 AM

Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
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, Reuters reported, citing a monitoring group.

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 been fighting Islamist rebel groups for quite some time. This is essentially a third war in Syria, in addition to the war between President Bashar Al-Assad’s troops and rebels, and a war between moderate rebel groups and Islamist rebel groups.

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

In December, Kurds in northeastern Syria officially announced the creation of an autonomous Kurdish government in the region. The move followed a series of military victories against Islamist rebel groups. 

On Saturday, 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 (ISIS) 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.

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.