Iraqi peshmerga leave Kobane via Turkey: official

Iraqi peshmerga leave Kobane via Turkey: official
Kurdish peshmerga fighters carry the body of an Islamic State militant who was killed in clashes on the outskirt of Kirkuk

ANKARA - Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga forces on Wednesday left the key Syrian town of Kobane near the Turkish border after a half-year deployment to fight jihadists, a Turkish official told AFP.

The peshmerga, who had first deployed to Kobane in late October last year, successfully helped defeat Islamic State (IS) jihadists in the over two-month battle for the strategic town.

They crossed the border into Turkey and were then being flown back to northern Iraq, the official said.

"Peshmerga forces left Turkey today (Wednesday) via air," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Local media reported that a convoy of seven buses of Iraqi peshmerga escorted by Turkish security forces reached the southeastern Turkish city of Sanliurfa after travelling through the Mursitpinar border crossing.

The groups left for the Iraqi Kurdish capital of Arbil by plane.

"The mission is over. No more peshmerga forces will arrive," the Turkish official said.

In October, peshmerga fighters carrying heavy weaponry crossed the Turkish border to join the fight for the mainly-Kurdish Syrian town of Kobane against IS extremists.

Kurdish fighters, backed by US-led air strikes, drove the jihadists from Kobane in January - a key symbolic and strategic blow against IS.

Months of fighting has prompted a mass exodus of local residents, with some 200,000 fleeing across the border into Turkey.

Turkey, a vocal critic of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, has refused to play a greater role in a US-led coalition against IS radicals, and instead called for a broader strategy with the ultimate goal of bringing down the Damascus regime.

Kurdish politicians in Syria and Turkey had long urged Turkish authorities to allow for the passage of fighters and weapons into Kobane.

After resisting all such demands, NATO member Turkey, a NATO member, eventually allowed the transit of Iraqi peshmerga forces through its soil to fight in Kobane as well as helping their training.

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