IRBIL, Iraq (AP) — An American fighting with Kurdish forces against the Islamic State group in Syria has been killed in battle, authorities said Wednesday, making him likely the first U.S. citizen to die fighting alongside them against the extremists.
Keith Broomfield, who was from Massachusetts, died June 3 in a battle in a Syrian village named Qentere, near the border town Kobani, said Nasser Haji, an official with a group of Kurdish fighters known as the YPG. Broomfield had joined the YPG on Feb. 24 under the nom de guerre Gelhat Raman, said Haji, who didn't elaborate on the circumstances of his death.
U.S. Department of State 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.
A friend of Broomfield, Joel O'Toole, said Broomfield went to Syria a few months ago to fight after becoming inspired by something he saw on television.
"I think it's incredible," O'Toole told WHDH-TV. "It says a lot for someone to be motivated to get behind a cause like that and do something."
A man who answered the door at a home in Bolton, Massachusetts, listed as owned by Broomfield's family said the family would not be commenting. No one answered the door at a family-operated business, Broomfield Laboratories, in the town.
The fight against the Islamic State group has attracted dozens of Westerners, including 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, where Islamic State fighters recently have rolled back gains U.S. troops had made. 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 were 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.
Lee reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Zeina Karam in Beirut and Salar Salim and photographer Steven Senne contributed to this report.
This story has been corrected to show the spelling of the man's surname is Broomfield, not Bloomfield.