British volunteers join international group to fight ISIS in Syria

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British and American volunteers prepare to battle Turkish military in Syria, saying it is their 'duty' to fight alongside Kurds after helping their struggle against ISIS


British and American volunteers are preparing to battle Turkish military in Syria, claiming it is their 'duty' to fight alongside Kurds after helping their struggle against ISIS.

A 24-year-old British-Chinese fighter from Manchester, named as Huang Lei, is among foreigners who have joined the YPG Kurdish militia and says two other Britons are with him in the group.

The YPG is seen by Turkey as a terrorist group but was a key US ally against ISIS and played a major role in driving the extremists from much of northern and eastern Syria. 

Turkish-led forces launched an offensive on the Kurdish-held enclave of Afrin on Saturday but have met with fierce resistance from the militia that controls the area.

The YPG has now released a clip showing international volunteers - including one with an American accent - who fought alongside them against ISIS when the terror group held huge swathes of territory in northern Syria. 


The American says in the video: 'We're all ready to go and fight in Afrin, against the invading force of Turkey.

'We've been training for a significant amount of time. We are prepared, and we have been supplied by the YPG to fight against the Turkish terrorists.'


'We were fighting against ISIS in Syria and suddenly we heard that Turkey is attacking Afrin and bombing the city,' he says.

'We want to go there to help people defend the city and protect the people.'

Lei was an international politics student at the University of Manchester before he travelled to Syria to fight ISIS in 2015. He told the BBC it was his 'duty' to 'defend Afrin'. 

He said there were Britons from London and Leeds among a group of 20 volunteers with members also coming from the US, Spain, Germany and France.

The 'kindness and comradeship the Kurdish people have shown' was his 'motivation to stand against Turkey' he said as he prepares to take on a sovereign country and a NATO ally. 

Lei said he was 'here to fight against terrorists'. 

Meanwhile, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said today that there 'was a desire on the part of the foreign fighters who fought in Raqqa and who are fighting in Deir al-Zor to go to Afrin.'

Senior SDF official Redur Xelil declined to say when the foreigners had gone to Afrin, but said they numbered in the 'tens'. 'They will wage battles against the Turkish invasion,' Xelil said.

'There are Americans, Britons, Germans, different nationalities from Europe, Asia and America,' Xelil said.

The Turkish military's incursion targets the US-backed Syrian Kurdish YPG, viewed by Ankara as a terrorist group and an extension of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has fought an insurgency in Turkey's largely Kurdish southeast since 1984. 

France and the United States yesterday urged Turkey to exercise restraint in its offensive on Afrin, where the United Nations says an estimated 5,000 people have been displaced by the fighting. 

The UN said most of the displaced are still inside Afrin because Kurdish forces are preventing civilians from leaving and Syrian government forces are keeping them out of adjacent areas.

US Defense Secretary James Mattis on Tuesday chastised Turkey for its offensive against the Kurds, saying that it 'distracts the international efforts' from targeting the remaining forces of ISIS in the region.

On Tuesday, the YPG, regained control of a village in Syria's north breached by Turkish forces. The Turkish forces were also repelled from a hill they seized a day earlier on the eastern edge of the district.

The YPG is a key US ally against ISIS and played a major role in driving the extremists from much of northern and eastern Syria. The US military operates bases in Kurdish-controlled territory in northern Syria but not in or near Afrin.

At least 27 civilians, including eight children and four women, have been killed in the fighting in Afrin, mainly in Turkish airstrikes, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based group that monitors the civil war.