According to Syrian state media, Assad's forces just killed a woman from Flint, Michigan, along with two other westerners. Their claim comes just days after Senator John McCain secretly visited rebel forces in the country, later taking to U.S. airwaves to advocate for arming opposition forces.
The woman in question is Nicole Mansfield, 33, according to Mlive.com, who were unable to track down anything conclusive on the alleged rebel fighter. But, their digging shows, Mansfield probably hasn't been home in at least a little while:
"Nobody answered the door at the Flint address Thursday, May 30, that was the address on the driver's license and messages were left with the company that manages the apartment building.
Other records show Mansfield with an address at an apartment complex on Longway Boulevard. At that address, an eviction notice for Mansfield is posted on the door and is dated May 21, 2013."
The State Department is reportedly looking into Syrian state media's claims, which should be taken with about a mountain of salt until there's any other source out there confirming or clarifying their story (Update: according to the Detroit Free Press, Mansfield's family have confirmed at least some of the Syrian media's story. More below). The name and address of the alleged American fighter comes from a driver's license posted on Syria's Breaking News Network. We'll link to it, but be warned that, as is routine for Syrian state media outlets, BNN has posted graphic photos of the bodies of the dead on their site. You can look for yourself, however, here.
In any case, here is the story Syrian media is going with, as summarized by CNN:
"The report said the three were ambushed in their car in the flashpoint city of Idlib in northwestern Syria, where government forces have been battling rebels for control. TV footage showed a bullet-riddled car and three bodies laid out. It also showed weapons, a computer and a flag belonging to the militant al-Nusra Front. The U.S. State Department has said the al-Nusra Front, a Syrian opposition group, is linked to al Qaeda in Iraq, which has long operated in Iraq and neighboring Syria."
Earlier today, Syria's government announced the arrival of new, long-awaited Russian missiles, further crushing any hopes of organizing peace talks to end the country's long-running conflict in the near future.
Update: 8:57 p.m.: Niraj Warikoo at the Detroit Free Press spoke to Mansfield's family. According to them, Mansfield was a convert to Islam by marriage, and had an 18-year-old daughter.The FBI, they say, interviewed family members today based on the state media report. Here's more, from the Free Press:
Two FBI agents interviewed family members of Nicole Lynn Mansfield today, according to the family members. The FBI confirmed to them news reports from Syrian TV that Mansfield was killed while fighting in Syria, said Monica Mansfield Speelman, 53, of Flint, an aunt of Nicole...Family members confirmed that the photo and address are of Mansfield. “I’m sick over it,” Speelman said of her niece’s death. “I didn’t think she was (a terrorist), but God only knows.”
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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