IRBIL, Iraq (CBS/AP) — A Massachusetts resident fighting with Kurdish forces against the Islamic State group in Syria has been killed in battle, authorities said Wednesday, likely the first U.S. citizen to die fighting alongside them against the extremists.
Keith Broomfield, who grew up in Bolton and recently lived in Westminster with his wife, 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 YPG. He had joined the YPG on Feb. 24 under the nom de guerre Gelhat Raman, Haji said.
Haji did not elaborate on the circumstances of Broomfield’s death.
WBZ-TV’s Bill Shields reported that Broomfield’s loved ones are gathering at a family business next door to their Bolton home and others are arriving with flowers.
A family friend told Shields he is unaware of Broomfield having any military background, but said Broomfield was compelled to travel overseas because he was angered by ISIS’ violent actions.
State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke confirmed Bloomfield’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 U.S.-led military invasion of Iraq. And while the U.S. 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.
Backed by U.S.-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.
Associated Press writers Zeina Karam in Beirut and Salar Salim contributed to this report.
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