Syrians return to Kobani after Kurds win back town

Kurdish forces have have also regained control of at least 163 villages around Kobani.

FILE: Smoke rises during armed clashes between Syrian Kurdish fighters and militants from the Islamic State (IS) in and around the town of Kobane, Syria, as seen from the Turkish side of the border. Picture: Supplied.

Turkey - Thousands of people who fled the Syrian town of Kobani during a four-month battle between Kurdish and Islamic State forces are now making their way home, only to find wrecked houses and unexploded bombs littering the streets.

The border town, once home to 200,000 people, was largely destroyed by fighting in which Kurdish defenders held off militant Islamists trying to overrun the area.

Assisted by Iraqi peshmerga forces and almost daily air strikes by the United States-led coalition, the Kurds finally drove out the radical Sunni insurgents in late January and a fragile peace was restored.

Almost the entire population of Kobani fled across the border to Turkey to escape the fighting, some to refugee camps, others staying with family and friends or heading to Turkey's cities.

The returning residents' problems are far from over.

Near the Mursitpinar border crossing, dozens of people were carrying suitcases and bags of food and awaiting security checks before going back to Kobani.

One man said he was taking tents to live in as his home had probably been destroyed.

"We have fled to Turkey after ISIS reached to the outskirts of our town. But we have been hoping to get back home. Now that it is liberated, we are on our way back" said Muhammed Salih, 65, waiting to cross the border to Syria with his family of six.

However, Kobani official Idris Nasan said 15 people had been killed and many more injured in accidents involving unexploded ordnance since the siege was lifted.

"It's not safe for them. But they were looking forward to coming back," he told Reuters by telephone.

Turkey's largest refugee camp, built for escapees from Kobani, holds less than one third of its 35,000 capacity, according to Dogan Eskinat, spokesman for Turkey's disaster management agency AFAD.

"Turkey keeps track of exits as well as entries. The latest figure shows around 4,000 people have gone back to Kobani," he said.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Kurdish forces have regained control of at least 163 villages around Kobani. But their progress had been slowed by renewed clashes to the west and southwest of the town.