The UK Daily Mail reports that a young British soldier—as of yet unnamed due to concerns for his safety and not yet officially considered AWOL—has left his post in Cyprus to join up with Kurdish forces in Syria and battle ISIS.
An interesting detail from the story is that the soldier is believed to have once shared a barracks with Fusilier Lee Rigby, who was run down with a car and hacked to death with machetes by a pair of Islamists in London last May.
The soldier notified his family of his decision in a series of text messages. “I really want and need to do this and I will be safe,” reads one. “I’m so sorry to put you through this.”
“I have good skills and I can speak the language. I can help these people and help with this fight,” he assured his family, adding that he expected to “get in trouble for being AWOL, but it’s minor and no prison sentence.” Military officials said they were primarily concerned with his safe recovery at this point. There seems to be reluctance on the part of the British Army to formally charge him with abandoning his post until he has actually overstayed his leave.
The soldier is said to have some experience with training Kurdish peshmerga forces. He was on leave in Dubai at the time of his departure for Syria. The Daily Mail believes he has hooked up with a group called the “Lions of Rojava,” a unit of foreign fighters, who are generally more welcomed by Syrian Kurds than their Iraqi counterparts. If the soldier described in this report succeeds in joining up with the Kurds, he would be the first active-duty British soldier to succeed in such a quest. In October, a Royal Marine Commando was questioned by police for planning such a desertion. According to UK’s The Independent, the young soldier’s texts to his family suggest that he plans to spend a year fighting with the peshmerga.