American killed fighting Islamic State in Syria – The Times of Israel

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ERBIL, Iraq — An American fighting with Kurdish forces against the Islamic State group in Syria has been killed in battle, authorities said Wednesday, likely the first US citizen to die fighting alongside them against the extremists.

Keith Broomfield of Massachusetts died June 3 in a battle in the Syrian village of Qentere, which is near the border town of Kobani, said Nasser Haji, an official with a group of Kurdish fighters known as the People’s Protection Units (YPG). He had joined the YPG on February 24 under the nom de guerre Gelhat Raman, Haji said.

Haji did not elaborate on the circumstances of Broomfield’s death, nor did he know the man’s hometown.

State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke confirmed Broomfield’s death, but declined to provide any details about the circumstances. He said the U.S. was providing consular assistance to his family.

The fight against the Islamic State group has attracted dozens of Westerners, including a number of Iraq war veterans who have made their way back to the Middle East to join Kurdish fighters, who have been most successful against the extremist group.

Many are spurred on by Kurdish social media campaigners and a sense of duty rooted in the 2003 US-led military invasion of Iraq. And while the US and its coalition allies bomb the extremists from the air, Kurds say they hope more Westerners will join them on the ground to fight.

Previously, a British citizen, an Australian and a German woman have been killed fighting with the Kurds.

Broomfield was feted by Kurds and pro-Kurdish social media users as a hero, often with pictures of him associated with the YPG insignia.

Many users referred to him as a martyr.

Pictures also surfaced of him in the combat zone, seen here taking a selfie with friends.

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Backed by US-led coalition airstrikes, Kurdish YPG fighters in Syria have successfully pushed back Islamic State group militants from Kobani and scores of nearby villages.

More recently, they have closed in on the Islamic State-held town of Tal Abyad near the Turkish border. The town is the Islamic State group’s main access point to Turkey from Raqqa, the group’s de facto capital in Syria.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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