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A Kurdish man stands in a destroyed building in the center of the Syrian border town of Kobani on Jan. 28, 2015.
A Kurdish man stands in a destroyed building in the center of the Syrian border town of Kobani on Jan. 28, 2015.Bulent Kilic—AFP/Getty Images
A Kurdish man stands in a destroyed building in the center of the Syrian border town of Kobani on Jan. 28, 2015.
Street scene in Kobani on Jan. 28, 2015.
A Kurdish fighter speaks on the phone as one of his comrades walks past in the center of the Syrian town of Kobani on Jan. 28, 2015.
A Kurdish fighter walks through the wreckage of a building in the center of the Syrian town of Kobani on Jan. 28. 2015.
A Kurdish fighter walks with his child in the center of the Syrian border town of Kobani, Jan. 28, 2015.
A shell is used as a vase in the Syrian border town of Kobani on Jan. 28, 2015.
An injured kurdish fighter sits near the site where a mortar shell landed in the center of the Syrian town of Kobani on Jan. 28, 2015.
Kurdish fighters walk along a street in the center of the Syrian town of Kobani on Jan. 28, 2015.
A fighter drives a car with heavy gun machine in the center of Kobani on Jan. 28. 2015.
A Kurd stands in a building as pigeons fly over in the center of Kobani, on Jan. 28, 2015.
A Kurdish man stands in a destroyed building in the center of the Syrian border town of Kobani on Jan. 28, 2015.
Bulent Kilic—AFP/Getty Images
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Peek Inside Kobani After Kurds Claim Victory Over ISIS

Jan 28, 2015

Two days after Kurdish fighters declared victory over Islamist militants in the battle for Kobani, following months of U.S.-led air strikes, a group of journalists was allowed into the besieged Syrian border city for a closer look at what's left.

Bulent Kilic, a Turkish photojournalist with Agence France Presse who has watched the battle against militants of the group Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) play out from along the Turkish border, was among the few to enter the ravaged town.

“It’s not a city anymore,” says Kilic, who TIME named Wire Photographer of the Year in 2014. “I saw all the bombs that were dropped on Kobani during this battle. And there’s only debris left, especially in the eastern part of the town from where ISIS tried to get in.”

Kilic was in the first group of journalists allowed inside Kobani for a couple of hours Wednesday. “We had been asking authorities to go inside,” he says. “The only other way is the illegal way, which can be very dangerous—you can get shot. This morning, however, [the Kurdish fighters] told us they would arrange some time inside the city.”

Once there, he was free to roam around town, meeting some of the few inhabitants who chose to stay despite months of intense fighting. And while people were happy to see the constant bombardment come to a stop, they weren’t celebrating, says Kilic. “[This war] was very violent, and many people died—their friends, their families.”

Kilic is back in Turkey now—“AFP asked me not to stay the night because it has strict rules about reporting in Syria”—but the 35-year-old photographer will be back.

“I feel like I’ve finished the war-part of this story, and now, as refugees look to go back, I want to follow the rebuilding," he says. "It’ll be hard. There’s no heating, no electricity, no water, no shops. I don’t know how they will manage, but that’s the story I want to do now.”

Read next: ISIS Still Strong Despite Major Defeat in Kobani

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