BEIRUT – Kurdish forces have driven out Islamic State fighters who had infiltrated the Syrian border town of Kobani, but clashes continued outside the town, activists and the official Syrian news agency said Saturday. The civilian death toll — already well over 100 — was expected to rise as the search for bodies continued.
"Kobani has been completely cleared of Daesh and Kurdish forces are now combing the town looking for fighters who may have gone into hiding," activist Mustafa Bali, using the Arabic acronym for the IS, told The Associated Press by telephone from Kobani.
The official SANA news agency also said Kobani had been cleared of IS fighters and that forces were searching for any remaining militants.
Bali and the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said fighting continued Saturday between the Kurdish forces and IS fighters in areas to the south and west of the town on the Turkish border. They did not have details.
The number of civilians killed since bands of elite IS fighters infiltrated the town early Thursday has exceeded 200 and was likely to rise as the search for bodies continues, Bali said. The observatory, which relies on information from a network of activists across Syria, put the number at 174, saying they included men, women and children slain by the IS in areas just south of the town. Syria's official news agency put the number at 120 in a Friday night report.
Most were killed in cold blood, some in their own homes, by the IS fighters, activists said. Many were caught in the cross-fire as gun battles raged over the past two days in the town's streets or were randomly targeted by IS snipers on rooftops.
"They were revenge killings," Rami Abdurrahman, the observatory's director, told the AP.
Kobani has become a symbol of Kurdish resistance after the town endured a months-long siege by the Islamic State before Kurdish forces, backed by U.S.-led coalition airstrikes, broke through and drove the militants out in January.
Wednesday's surprise attack on Kobani and a simultaneous one targeting the remote northeastern town of Hassakeh came one day after the Islamic State called for a wave of violence during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, a time of fasting and piety that is now in its second week. They also came after the group suffered a series of setbacks over the past two weeks, including the loss of the Syrian border town of Tal Abyad — one of the group's main points for the transfer of foreign fighters and supplies.
"You Muslims, take the initiative and rush to jihad, rise up you mujahideen everywhere, push forward and make Ramadan a month of calamities for the nonbelievers," IS spokesman Abu Mohammed al-Adnani said in an audio message released Tuesday.
In what also appears to be a response to the call, terror attacks took place Friday across three continents: shootings in a Tunisian beach resort that left 39 people dead, an explosion and a beheading in a U.S.-owned chemical warehouse in southeast France and a suicide bombing by an Islamic State affiliate at a Shiite mosque in Kuwait that killed at least 27 worshippers.