Islamic State fighters are being killed in large numbers in northern Syria after a major offensive by Kurdish fighters, Sky News reports. The YPG – a militia of Syrian Kurds – has told Sky News they are winning the battle against IS but need more weapons and training.
Despite their lack of equipment they have managed to recapture swathes of territory from the extremist group and will soon launch another major attack under the cover of coalition airstrikes.
Sky News had a chance to witness some of the areas IS had been forced out of as US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in France before heading to Russia and New York in a bid to build a consensus on the conflict.
YPG commanders said they are priming the coalition with coordinates of IS positions so they can escalate their bombing campaign from the air. As we made our way to the frontline we saw plenty of evidence that the self-proclaimed caliphate is contracting.
Lying by the side of the road we found the remains of IS militants in shallow graves. They’ve not been buried to give them dignity but to stop the spread of disease from their rotting corpses – this is how martyrdom looks in northern Syria.
The youngest fighter on the frontline we visited is just 16 and the oldest is 18 – Rustam Judy is also the unit’s commander. “We are fighting with our hearts not just with weapons because we do not have enough equipment but it is my duty to defeat the enemy for my people and my homeland,” he said.
The coalition airstrikes are also reaping chaos. We saw bomb making factories, where improvised explosive devices were put together for suicide attacks, that had been completely destroyed.
The signature of IS’s cruelty is harder to erase. The YPG fighters showed us a dungeon buried in the ground where Yazidi women were kept as prisoners. Inside, on the walls, was a diary of their torturous confinement buried underground in the desert.
As we moved through the towns we also saw other evidence of what life was like under the yoke of IS rule. Inside one building – which they called a court – we found leaflets demanding an Islamic tax from farmers harvesting wheat and barley.
The shadow of IS’s totalitarian theocratic nightmare may have been lifted from some parts of northern Syria but IS is still a major threat. The fighters at checkpoints are nervous. Suicide bombers are still striking these areas and they fear, as IS weakens more, they will be sent to cause destruction and division.