VANCOUVER – A Canadian man may be one of three foreigners killed while fighting alongside Syrian rebels, according to media reports.
The Guardian reports one of the three foreigners killed in Idlib province on Wednesday, is believed to be Canadian because of calls made from a cell phone.
“There were 10 rebels in a car in west Idlib province. The British rebel, the US female rebel, another unknown body – we believe he is Canadian. His mobile was checked and many calls to Canada have been made on his mobile,” Syrian army officer Yasser Muhammed told the Guardian Friday afternoon.
Spokesperson Chrystiane Roy said the Dept. of Foreign Affairs is is aware of reports of a Canadian may have been killed in Syria and officials are continuing to investigate the claims.
Meanwhile, the family of Michigan-born Nicole Lynn Mansfield only learned she was in the war-torn country when the FBI notified them of her death on Thursday.
Mansfield, from Flint, converted to Islam when she got married five years ago, but she continued to follow the religion after the couple divorced three years ago, her aunt Monica Mansfield-Speelman told the Detroit Free Press.
Mansfield-Speelman said her 33-year-old niece was in Kentucky, the last she knew, but admitted they had not spoke with one another since September.
Mansfield had an 18-year-old daughter from an earlier relationship and worked with elderly people for about a decade, after attaining her GED and going to community college.
According to the Daily Mail, 22-year-old British man named Ali Al-Mansafi was the third westerner killed in the incident.
A Syrian news report said Mansfield and the others were linked to the al-Qaeda affiliated rebel group al-Nusra — a group which the UN Security Council blacklisted on Friday, placing it under an arms embargo and assets freeze.
The report also said she had her U.S. passport, Michigan driver’s licence and was wearing a head scarf when her body was found in a bullet-riddled car. There were reportedly ammunition clips, grenades and an al-Nusra flag inside the vehicle.
The Syrian website Breaking News has posted several graphic images of three deceased foreigners as well as photos of their passports and the artillery said to be found in the car.
WARNING: Photos posted to the Syrian website Breaking News are disturbing and may not be suitable for some readers. View at your own discretion.
She said she was troubled by her niece’s conversion to Islam and that the family was concerned when Mansfield travelled to Dubai three years ago.
They were able to convince her to come back to the United States, Mansfield-Speelman said.
“She had a heart of gold, but she was weak-minded… I think she could have been brainwashed,” Mansfield’s grandmother, Carole Mansfield, also told the Detroit Free Press.
The FBI is not commenting on the situation, but Reuters quotes an official with the U.S. State Department as saying authorities are working with the Czech Republic mission in Syria to find out more about Mansfield’s death.
“As we do in all such cases, we are working through our Czech protecting power in Syria to obtain more information, and we appreciate the efforts of the Czech mission on behalf of our citizens,” the Reuters source, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said.
Earlier this spring, the European Union expressed concern over the number of young people travelling to Syria to fight alongside opposition forces in the two-year civil war.
The EU’s anti-terror chief said in April there could be hundreds of young people travelling to the country to take part in the battle against forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad.