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Inside Kobani: Kurdish Civilians Endure Islamic State Battle

Kurdish fighters backed by Iraqi peshmerga forces and Syrian rebels are locked in a battle against the Islamic State in Kobani.

8 PHOTOS

Kurdish People's Protection Unit (YPG) soldiers walk near the town entrance circle heading to their strongholds in Kobani, Syria.

An exclusive report shot by photojournalist Jake Simkin inside Kobani late last month offers a rare, in-depth glimpse of the destruction that more than two months of fighting has inflicted on the Kurdish town in northern Syria by the Turkish border.

Jake Simkin / AP
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One of the few signs of life in this northern Syria border town is the old bakery, revived by Kurdish fighters battling the Islamic State group.

Closed down for some 20 years, the production line now bakes two tons of doughy bread every day to energize the fighters and feed the spatter of civilians left behind.

"We came and fixed up (the bakery) for use in these difficult times," said Fathi Misiro, a fighter with the People's Protection Units, or YPG, who works in the bakery. "Ten days ago...it was worse here. We've been helping people and sending bread to them daily."

Jake Simkin / AP
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Outside the bakery, children playfully jump in and out of foxholes — barely fazed by the thunderous explosions nearby. Kobani as it was has been virtually erased. Rubble is all that remains of people's homes and their memories. Shops are gutted. Schools are flattened.

Jake Simkin / AP
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A young Kurdish fighter runs past sniper fire in the contested zone.

Kurdish fighters backed by small numbers of Iraqi peshmerga forces and Syrian rebels are locked in what they see as an existential battle against the Islamic State group, which swept into their town in mid-September. The advance was part of a summer blitz after the Islamic State group overran large parts of Syria and neighboring Iraq.

The YPG, an armed secular faction, is at the forefront of the struggle to save Kobani.

Jake Simkin / AP
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Bread is distributed by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units in Kobani.

Helped by more than 270 airstrikes from a U.S.-led coalition and an American airdrop of weapons, the Kurds have succeeded in halting the militants' advance and believe that a corner has been turned.

But the battle comes at a heavy price for the town's remaining residents.

Jake Simkin / AP
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A woman watches mortars exploding near by.

While most managed to flee across the nearby border with Turkey, some 2,000 Kurdish civilians opted to stay with the hope that fighting will soon subside. It is a small fraction of the population of 50,000 that once filled these streets.

Jake Simkin / AP
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A woman has her clothes to dry by the buffer zone.

They sleep in their cars or makeshift tents on the outskirts of the town, where barbed wire and land mines mark the Turkish border. Militant-fired mortars rain down on them regularly.

Jake Simkin / AP
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Smoke rises from fighting in Kobani, as seen from the buffer zone near the Turkish border.

Some farmers escaped with their machinery and livestock. Others lost everything.

"My sheep were taken. I lost my cow, for God's sake, my hens, my bedding, our sacks of wheat were stolen," said one woman interviewed in the video report, expressing gratitude for the bread the YPG fighters are providing.

--Associated Press

Jake Simkin / AP
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