REUTERS - Forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad killed a 33-year-old Michigan woman who had converted to Islam, and a British man during an ambush in a northwestern province, Syrian state media said on Friday.
Nicole Mansfield's aunt, Monica Mansfield Speelman, told Reuters on Thursday the FBI had informed her that afternoon of the death of her niece, who was from Flint, Michigan.
Syrian state television aired footage showing the body of the woman, who was dressed in a full black hijab. The footage also showed her American ID.
State media said the woman and two others apparently were killed in the ambush by Syrian government forces on an opposition mission north of Idlib. Syrian media also showed the passport of a British man, Ali alManasfi, 22. European security source confirmed that report to Reuters.
British daily The Guardian quoted a Syrian army officer as saying it was believed a third person killed was Canadian because his cell phone listed numerous calls to Canada. It was not clear when the ambush occurred.
Syrian state media said an initial investigation showed Mansfield and alManasfi were part of a mission to explore a nearby checkpoint. Government forces found weapons with the group and several documents, including a sketch of a security building, plus weapons, state media reported.
It was not clear what Mansfield and alManasfi were doing with the rebels, or which rebel group they were with.
Speelman said on Thursday she did not have details of how her niece had died.
"I'm just devastated," she said. "Evidently, she was fighting with opposition forces."
Speelman said Mansfield, a single mother of an 18-year-old daughter, had converted to Islam about five years ago. She said she did not know when her niece, who worked at a group home, had traveled to Syria.
"I didn't think she would stoop that low to go over there and try to harm anybody," Speelman said of her niece.
Media reports quoted a post from the Facebook page of Mansfield's daughter, Triana Lynn Mansfield, as saying: "I love you forever and always Mom. ... I'll stay strong. And you will never be forgotten."
Nicole Mansfield, who had attended Baptist churches in the area, began wearing a hijab about four or five years ago, her grandmother, Carole Mansfield, told media website MLive.com
"I told her the first time I saw her in her garb that she was looking a rattlesnake in the eye," she was quoted as saying.
The conflict in Syria has killed more than 80,000 people since March 2011. (Reporting by Mariam Karouny in Beirut, Mark Hosenball in Washington and Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee; Writing by Nick Carey; Editing by Vicki Allen)
Updated Date: Jun 01, 2013 02:15:37 IST