First Briton to die fighting Daesh in Syria is a former marine

Published March 4th, 2015 - 09:44 GMT
Scurfield is pictured kneeling in front of a group of fellow foreign fighters working alongside the Kurds against Daesh in Syria. (AFP/File)
Scurfield is pictured kneeling in front of a group of fellow foreign fighters working alongside the Kurds against Daesh in Syria. (AFP/File)

The first British national to be killed fighting ISIS (also known by the Arabic term of Daesh) in Syria was last night named as a former Royal Marine from Barnsley.

Konstandinos Erik Scurfield, of Barnsley, South Yorkshire, died while fighting with the Kurdistan People's Protection Units (YPG) in the Al-Hasakah province on Monday.

The former member of 45 Commando unit reportedly left the elite regiment just months ago and went to fight in the Middle East after befriending fighters in the region on Facebook.

The 25-year-old's death was confirmed by Mark Campbell, a pro-Kurdish rights campaigner of 20 years, who informed Mr Scurfield's family of his death.

Speaking to MailOnline, Mr Campbell said: 'Because of potential language issues I volunteered to inform the family of his death, which I did and spoke to his mother on behalf of the YPG.

'She was completely and utterly distraught - she was crying all the way through. It's the most awful and horrendous thing and exactly as you can imagine. It was just horrible.'

Mr Campbell said Mr Scurfield's mother had three questions - whether there was a body, if he died in battle and when he was killed - all of which he answered.

He added: 'The message from the YPG is that although they would like to bury him as one of their own, they are completely and utterly guided by the family's wishes.

'If the family wishes that the body come home to the UK, the YPG will do everything in their power to facilitate that.' 

A photograph of Mr Scurfield alongside close friend Jordan Matson, a former U.S. soldier now also fighting in Syria, was posted on social media.

Mr Scurfield's Facebook page featured the last words of Nazi victim Sophie Scholl, which read: 'How can we expect righteousness to prevail when there is hardly anyone willing to give himself up individually to a righteous cause.

'I have to go, but what does my death matter if, through us, thousands of people are wakened.'

Mr Matson wrote on the website: 'Yesterday I lost a brother very close to me.

'Eric from the UK and former Royal Marine gave his life combating terrorism for his nation and for Kurdistan. It was an honour and a privilege to fight at your side brother. You were one of my best friends.'

Mr Scurfield's sister, Georgianna, reportedly broke down in tears last night as she told The Times the family had not received official confirmation of his death.

Earlier yesterday, several respected Twitter news sources reported that a former British soldier had been killed in fighting against the terrorist organisation.

One journalist said that he had been told the news by a senior member of the YPG.

BBC reporter Guney Yildiz tweeted: 'A YPG commander in Rojava - Northeastern Syria - tells me that one of their UK volunteers has been killed in battle against ISIS.'

The death of the fighter has yet to be confirmed through official channels.

A Foreign Office spokesman told MailOnline: 'We are aware of reports of the death of a British national in Syria.

'As we do not have any representation in Syria, it is extremely difficult to get any confirmation of deaths or injuries and our options for supporting British nationals there are extremely limited.

'The UK has advised for some time against all travel to Syria, where all UK consular services are suspended.' 

The Kurds, backed by U.S. air strikes and local rebel fighters, have been pushing back Islamic State in northern Syria after the Al Qaeda offshoot captured large tracts of land along the border with Turkey.

Rami Abdulrahman, head of the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, who gathers information from a network of sources on the ground, said more than 100 western fighters had joined the Kurds in Syria and included Americans, French, Spanish and Dutch among other nationalities. 

The reports of Mr Scurfield's death follow news that Australian Ashley Johnston was killed last week while fighting ISIS in northern Iraq.

It's believed Mr Johnston was also fighting with the YPG and trying to liberate the ISIS-held town of Tal Hamis in Syria.

Mr Johnston, 28, originally from Maryborough, Queensland but had most recently been living in Canberra, was remembered by friends and colleagues from an Australian army rifle brigade as 'a good man' and 'the best mate'.

It is understood that Mr Johnston was the first foreign casualty from the Kurdish People's Protection Unit (YPG).

'Defence is aware that a former Australian Army Reserve member is believed to have been killed in northern Iraq while allegedly fighting with Peshmerga forces against Daesh,' an Australian Defence Force spokesman said.

'Due to the provisions of the Privacy Act, Defence will not release further information about the former member's military service or their personal details.'


© Associated Newspapers Ltd.

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