American Keith Broomfield has been killed while fighting against the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL/IS) as a volunteer with Kurdish units, according to reports on Kurdish social media. The U.S. State Department has confirmed Broomfield’s death and has been in contact with his family.
The circumstances remain vague. NBC News cites Kurdish sources describing Broomfield as a “martyr” and “American hero,” claiming he died in battle against ISIS, somewhere near the hotly contested Kurdish city of Kobani in Syria. USA Today cites a Kurdish militia group that says he was killed on June 3rd, in the village of Qentere. The UK Daily Mail has a headline claiming he was killed in an artillery exchange.
“Broomfield was fighting alongside the Kurdish People’s Protection Units in the Kobani countryside when he was killed battling against ISIS,” said Idris Nassan, the Kurdish co-deputy foreign minister of the Kobani district, as quoted by CNN. “It is unclear how long Broomfiled [sic] had been fighting with the Kurdish forces, but he had become well acquainted with the militiamen, even earning the Kurdish nom de guerre Damhad (meaning: it’s the time to do something).”
Broomfield was one of several Americans believed to be fighting alongside the Kurdish YPG militia in Syria, along with a number of other Western citizens. He would be the first American casualty from the ranks of volunteer fighters. “At least three other Westerners have been killed fighting with the Kurds, including men from Britain and Australian, and a woman from Germany,” Military Times reports.
Broomfield “joined the YPG on February 24 under the nom de guerre Gelhat Raman,” according to a Kurdish official quoted by the Times of Israel. His mother told NBC that he thought it was “God’s will” for him to do battle against ISIS. “I’m gonna do what I got to do. Sometimes you got to be a man whether you want to or not. I don’t expect anyone to understand but I don’t need anyone to either,” he explained to his sister in a text message.
More on the family’s reaction from NBC News:
Donna Broomfield said that her son — who had been the production manager for the family’s manufacturing firm —had left to join the Kurds about four months ago.
“He turned his life over to the Lord and he decided this was God’s will and God wanted him to do it,” she said.
There was “a little bit of texting” after he first arrived, but lately she had heard “nothing.”
“I’m waiting for his body to come back,” she added.
Jennifer Broomfield, who posted the text messages on Facebook but could not be reached for comment, wrote on her page that she “didn’t think she would lose him.”
“If we allow this war to continue we are ignoring that we are all sisters and brothers,” she wrote.
“My brother died to defend my sisters who are being sold, enslaved, raped and murdered. To defend my brothers who are shot beheaded and dumped into piles off trucks.
“This can not continue. This needs to end.
“I don’t care what country we are from.”
An International Business Times profile of Broomfield mentions that many Westerners have sought to join the Kurdish Peshmerga military and have been refused, as the Peshmerga considers itself a “professional fighting force” and does not accept volunteers; in fact, it is prohibited from doing so under Kurdish law. Volunteers generally find their way into the YPG militia, with a number of online resources helping them to do so, such as the “Lions of Rojava” Facebook page. This report does not make it clear whether Broomfield was one of those who inquired with the Peshmerga before joining the YPG.
He was a warrior with the courage and the heart of a lion. We want to thank his mother Donna for giving birth and raising such a wonderful son. Our hearts go out to her, his family and the American people. We thank you for your sacrifice and just want to let you know that we are crying with you. But we also want to let you know that his death will be avenged. We will let ISIS feel what it means to kill one of our brothers. We will chase them from our land to the gates of hell. There will be no mercy and no turning back.