Reports from Kurdish fighters on the front lines in Iraq and Syria allege that the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) is offering anyone within lands the group has conquered $150,000 for the capture or killing of a foreign national fighting against ISIS, whether with the Kurdish Peshmerga or another anti-ISIS militia.
On its Facebook page this week, the Lions of Rojava–a Syrian group formed by the Kurdish YPG and YPJ made up of foreign volunteer fighters–warned fighters among its ranks to keep in mind that there is a six-figure bounty on their heads when going out into the battlefield. ”
#ISIS terrorists said who can catch one foreign fighter and give in the hands of ISIS they will paying for one foreign fighter 150 000$,” the page notes, adding that the bounty is especially tempting to many civilians because of the extreme economic deprivation in which they find themselves: “The most people from middle east will do this because many of them are poor. Don’t forget money makes the world.”
The message also warned individuals that it is the only official page for the YPG/YPJ foreign wing and requested fans report any fake pages.
The Lions of Rojava was formed as a more efficient means of processing Westerners and other foreigners who wished to join the Kurds in the war on ISIS. Last year, the YPG and YPJ began using the Lions of Rojava Facebook page to provide more information to foreigners who wished to join and to warn them of the brutal reality of the battlefield. By February 2015, so many Westerners were trying to join the Kurdish groups–the YPG, YPJ, and Peshmerga in Iraq–that they were forced to turn back many who had no military training and were hindering their military advance.
Among the first to join the Lions of Rojava was Jordan Matson, a U.S. Army veteran believed to be one of four Americans fighting in Syria. He joined the Kurds in the Syrian/Turkish border town of Kobani, which was liberated from ISIS in February. The town remains in ruins and threatened by an Islamic State return.
Reports suggesting that ISIS had announced such a large bounty for Western enemies began surfacing in late May, when news arose of the money having its intended effect and ISIS militias forming specifically to capture and kill Western fighters. One UK fighter with the Kurdish troops, identified by the alias Sar Tom, posted on social media that “new intelligence has revealed that kidnap gangs have been formed to capture western volunteers, with bounties of $150,000 being placed on each man.”
Around 100 foreigners from the West have reportedly joined Kurdish, Assyrian, and other military units in the fight against the Islamic State, from the US, UK, Australia, and France in their greatest numbers. Australian volunteer Ashley Dyball, 23, has been identified as one of the most coveted targets. Dyball is currently fighting with the Lions of Rojava. Australian Kurdish community spokesman Brusk Aeiveri tells the nation’s Courier Mail that, while he would not encourage foreigners to go to Syria and Iraq, those who join the Kurds against ISIS “are heroes, regardless of where they are coming from.”
While the Kurds, Assyrians, and Yazidis have recruited 100 foreigners to join their fight, as of May, the Islamic State has an estimated 17,000 foreigners fighting in its ranks.