An American who was fighting the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) in Syria alongside U.S.-backed Kurdish forces became the sixth foreign volunteer and the second U.S. citizen to be killed by the terrorist group.
ISIS killed William Savage in Manbij on August 10, two days before the northern Syrian city was retaken from the jihadi group last Friday by the U.S.-backed Kurdish-Arab alliance known as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
Savage was fighting with the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the armed wing of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) that controls large swathes of northern Syria and has consistently defeated the Islamic State, also known as IS, in battle.
He joined the U.S.-allied Kurdish fighters in January 2015 as “one of dozens of American citizens who have volunteered to serve with the Kurdish group,” reports Voice of America (VOA).
Rudaw points out that “he was taking part in an effort to rescue civilians in Manbij city when he was seriously injured in an ISIS bombardment. The medical team was unable to save him.”
William Savage, the eldest of four children, worked as a cook at a hotel restaurant in Raleigh [North Carolina]. His father said the young man had no prior military experience before joining the YPG.
‘His dream was to join the U.S. military,’ the elder Savage said. ‘But he was denied admission because [of] a seizure he had when he was five years old.’
Savage was reportedly known by his Kurdish nom de guerre, Amed Kobani.
The 27-year-old American “was targeted by the gunfire of the thugs” from ISIS, said a Kurdish-language statement released by the YPG Wednesday, according to VOA.
“Despite all differences, William believed in building a common and peaceful life,” adds the statement. And his memory “will stay alive in the hearts and souls of all his friends.”
Savage died “suffering from severe wounds,” it also said.
Kurdish forces announced late Wednesday that Savage, 27, a native of Maryland and North Carolina, was killed last week in Syria during clashes between U.S.-backed forces and IS fighters in the city of Manbij. He was the sixth foreign volunteer, and the second American, to die fighting with the Kurds against IS.
Volunteers like Savage normally receive only food and lodging in return for their service. He was helping civilians flee from the battle as a Kurdish-Arab alliance advanced on Islamic State fighters, the People’s Protection Units (YPG) said in a statement.
VOA notes that “the 73-day-long battle” to push ISIS out of Manbij began in late May and “left more than 4,000 IS fighters and 264 U.S.-backed fighters dead.”
“He was fearless,” said Reginald Savage, the American volunteer’s father, who lives in Raleigh. “He wanted to help the Kurds.”
His son lied about going to combat ISIS, saying he was leaving the United States to study in Greece “because he didn’t want me to worry about him,” said Reginald.
Savage’s father told VOA the U.S. State Department asked him to help retrieve his son’s body from a hospital on the Syrian-Iraqi border.
The SDF is predominantly composed of Kurdish YPG fighters, who have been described as Marxists and accused by Turkey and some U.S. officials of being linked to the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK), a communist guerrilla group.