An American who had volunteered alongside Kurdish forces to wipe out the Islamic State group died in a battle against ISIS, Kurdish officials announced Wednesday. Idris Nassan, Kurdish co-deputy foreign minister of the Kobani district, confirmed the death to NBC News, but did not identify the man by name.
Twitter accounts and Facebook pages, however, identified the fighter as "martyr" Keith Thomas Broomfield. He was allegedly killed in the Syrian countryside surrounding Kobani. A State Department official also told NBC that Broomfield was killed in Syria and U.S. officials have reportedly reached out to Broomfield's family.
"I didn't want him to go but I didn't have a choice in the matter," said his mother, Donna, in a tearful phone interview with NBC News. She said he traveled to the Middle East four months ago to fight and they had little communication during that time. "I'm waiting for his body to come back," she added.
— Peshmerga Forces™ (@KURDISTAN_ARMY) June 10, 2015
In February, Kurdish media outlet Rudaw reported that a wave of foreign fighters looking to link up with Kurdish peshmerga forces in the battle against ISIS were being asked to leave. "The Peshmerga is a professional fighting force,” Ministry of Peshmerga spokesman Helgurd Hekmat explained to Rudaw. “Just last week, an American man arrived wanting to volunteer. I couldn't help him. Yes, they are volunteers, but we have to guarantee their lives, and we can't do that."
He said Kurdish law expressly forbids recruiting foreigners to the iconic Kurdish military corps whose name means “those who face death.” “The Peshmerga is a professional fighting force,” Hekmat added.
But some groups have recruited Westerners to help them battle ISIS in Iraq and Syria. A Facebook page "The Lions of Rojava" promotes pictures and stories of white, non-Muslim volunteering to fight with the Kurdish YPG (People's Protection Units) forces in Rojava, the Kurdish name for the northeastern Kurdish territory in Syria, reported the Huffington Post last year.