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Kurdish fighters celebrate victory in shattered Kobane

Fatma Kizilboga (FRANCE 24)

Just days after Kurdish fighters finally managed to take back Kobane, the site of intense fighting and focus of world attention for months, FRANCE 24 reports from the Syrian border city that has been reduced to a vast field of ruins.

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A Turkish official opens the border gate to unveil a moonscape of crumbling buildings with iron bars sticking out of collapsed concrete and debris obliterating avenues and side streets. Welcome to a Syrian hell called Kobane.

A soldier walks across what has become a field of ruin. Cars have been wrecked, unexploded mortar bombs litter the ground.

But for this female Kurdish fighter, the sacrifice was worth it. "At the start, I decided to stay here to save our country from the jihadists rather than flee to another country," she says with a smile, her hand gripping the rifle strap on her shoulder.

A few metres further, a group of Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga fighters are trying to maneuver a vehicle through the bombed out street.

Three months ago, they came to lend a hand to their Syrian cousins."At the end of the day, we are all Kurds,” explains a fighter. “The battle for Kobane brought us together – with the Americans as well."

After four months of door-to-door urban fighting by Kurdish troops on the ground supported by aerial strikes by the US-led international coalition against the Islamic State group (IS – also known as ISIS or ISIL), the enemy has withdrawn from the heart of the city.

Sending a jihadists body home to Germany

Every building bears the marks of gunfire. Down some streets, huge black sheets hang between apartment blocks. The town still hasn't taken down these sheets hung up to block the view of snipers.

Kobane may be liberated but the threat remains. "The jihadists are a threat not only to us, but to the whole world,” explains Ismet Sheikh Nasan, a commandant for the Syrian Kurdish YPG (People’s Protection Units). “ISIS forces are 40 kilometres away to the east, 35 kilometres to the south and 50 kilometres to the west. We are surrounded. That's why a corridor must be opened to enable us to receive weapons."

The Kurds want to show they do things differently to the barbarous jihadists.

They are about to deliver the body of a jihadist to his family in Turkey.

He was a German of Turkish origin who joined ISIS. “When he was killed, ISIS announced it on social media. His family did some research and found out he was killed in Kobane. They contacted us and asked us for his body,” explains Sheikh Nasan.

Other bodies lie in the ruins, waiting to be buried. In the battle for Kobane, more than 1,000 jihadists died, making it the group’s biggest set-back on the battlefields across Syria and Iraq.

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