An American woman identified as Flint, Mich., resident Nicole Lynn Mansfield, was killed in Syria while fighting alongside anti-government rebels. The 33-year-old Mansfield had reportedly converted to Islam several years ago.
The Syrian government’s official news source, SANA, first reported on Mansfield’s death, stating that she and two other rebels were setting up an observation post in the heavily contested city of Idlib. When confronted by a group of Syrian soldiers, Mansfield and her associates reportedly threw hand grenades at them before being shot and killed.
Another pro-Syrian government news site, Breaking News Sy, posted graphic photos of Mansfield’s bodies after the shooting [WARNING: Extremely Graphic Link]. Also pictured are the two other rebels, one of whom appears to be a 23-year-old Londoner.
The American government has not directly confirmed that Mansfield was killed in Syria, but her mother and cousin told the Detroit Free Press that the FBI did indeed confirm the news to them on Thursday afternoon.
According to her family, Nicole Mansfield converted to Islam several years ago, and had at one point married an Arab man who she later divorced. Her family still does not know the name of the man she married. Mansfield reportedly always wore a headscarf and attempted to get her family to do the same. Her grandmother believes that she was good-natured, but may have been misled.
“She had a heart of gold, but she was weak-minded,” she told the DFP. “I think she could have been brainwashed.”
Mansfield was raised as a Baptist in Flint, and her father worked at General Motors for years. She dropped out of high school when she became pregnant, though she later obtained her GED and attended the nearby Mott Community College. For 10 years, she worked as a home health care provider, tending to elderly people in the Flint area.
None of Mansfield’s relatives are sure of when or why she left for Syria. She reportedly spent time in Dubai about two years ago after her divorce, but returned to America at her family’s behest.
Michigan’s MLive reports that Mansfield may have recently been evicted from her home, which might have prompted her trip to Syria. Reporters found an eviction notice dated May 21, 2013, on the front door of her Flint apartment.