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First known American killed while fighting ISIS

The Massachusetts native died fighting alongside the Kurdish People's Protection Union.


Kasia Pilat


Posted on Jun 10, 2015   Updated on May 28, 2021, 3:06 pm CDT

An official for the State Department confirmed Wednesday that Keith Broomfield, 36, of Westminster, Massachusetts, was killed in Syria while combating Islamic State forces. He is believed to be the first U.S. citizen to have died while fighting alongside the Kurdish People’s Protection Union, also known as YPG.

Early Wednesday morning, reports of the incident started coming through on social media, specifically Twitter and Facebook accounts allied with the Kurdish fighters. YPG accounts broke the news about Broomfield’s death, referring to him as a “martyr” and reporting that he was killed in the Syrian village of Qentere, near the border town of Kobani, on June 3.

A number of Americans have reportedly traveled to the Middle East to join YPG in combating ISIS, and though Australian, British citizens, and a 19-year-old German woman have died in their efforts, Broomfield is the first known American casualty.

YPG official Nasser Haji told the Associated Press that Broomfield had joined the Kurdish forces on Feb. 24 under the nom de guerre Gelhat Raman. State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke confirmed the death but he declined to provide any further details elaborating the circumstances surrounding Broomfield’s death. A Facebook account under Broomfield’s name was created around the time he allegedly joined YPG, with a number of photos of him in Kurdish territory, but its veracity has been neither confirmed nor denied.

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NBC News was able to connect with Broomfield’s mother, Donna, who gave a tearful interview via phone from her home in Westminster, Massachusetts.

“I didn’t want him to go but I didn’t have a choice in the matter,” she said, adding that her son—who had served as the production manager for his family’s manufacturing firm—had left for Syria approximately 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. Though there was “a little bit of texting” between she and her son after he had first arrived, lately she had heard “nothing.”

“I’m waiting for his body to come back,” she added.

Kurdish fighters have been among the most successful against ISIS, aided in no small part by social media campaigns successfully recruiting fighters for their efforts. News of Broomfield’s death, however, comes as President Barack Obama authorized the deployment of 450 military personnel to advise and aid Iraqi military forces in the battle against ISIS and in their attempt to take back the city of Ramadi from the militant Sunni group.

Photo via Keith Broomfield/Facebook

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*First Published: Jun 10, 2015, 10:25 pm CDT