LONDON (Reuters) - A former British Royal Marine is believed to have become the first Briton to be killed fighting against Sunni Islamist Islamic State militants in Syria, his family and a lawmaker said on Wednesday.
Erik Scurfield, 25, who went to Syria on his own initiative as a private citizen, died after being hit by a mortar shell on Monday fighting alongside Kurdish YPG forces against Islamic State militants near Tal Hamis in northeast Syria, a Kurdish source close to YPG told Reuters.
“We are devastated to confirm the death of our son Konstandinos Erik Scurfield in Syria where he went to support the forces opposing Islamic State,” his family said in a statement.
“His flame might have burned briefly but it burned brightly with love, courage, conviction and honour and we are very proud of him.”
British parliamentarian Dan Jarvis said the family, from Barnsley in northern England, had come to him a few weeks ago with concerns about their son.
“Erik was an experienced former Royal Marine who was horrified by the atrocities being carried out by ISIS (Islamic State),” Jarvis said in a statement. “His family’s understanding was that he travelled to Syria hoping to provide medical and humanitarian support as an expert in battlefield medicine.”
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.
Britain’s Foreign Office has reiterated its warning for Britons not to travel to the region.
“There is an issue that needs to be addressed as Erik was certainly not the first person to travel to Syria to join forces resisting ISIS,” said Jarvis.
Britain estimates some 600 British Muslims have travelled to the region to join the conflict, including Mohammed Emwazi, the Briton revealed last week to be the masked militant “Jihadi John” who has fronted Islamic State videos of hostages being beheaded.
Reporting by Michael Holden and Ruairidh Villar; editing by Ralph Boulton and Crispian Balmer