By Russ Read
An American volunteer fighting with the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) against the Islamic State in Syria was killed some time this week, according to various Kurdish reports.
Levi Shirley was a former U.S. Marine in his mid-20s who went by the nom de guerre, Heval Agir. Foreign YPG fighters often take on the name “heval,” which means friend in Kurdish. He was reportedly killed during ongoing operations against the ISIS stronghold of Manbij in northern Syria.
Şehîd Heval Agir pic.twitter.com/5FDGzjG2oD
— Dr Partizan (@DrPartizan_) July 16, 2016
Shirley was killed in Syria just weeks after arriving to the country, said fellow YPG fighter Macer Gifford in a statement. Shirley and his unit reportedly came under fire from ISIS fighters during a night raid. Shirley’s unit was overtaken after a long fight, despite having the high ground.
“It was a brutal introduction to the International Volunteers in Syria, but it was exactly what Agir wanted,” said Gifford in his statement. “He came to fight and participate in the destruction of one of the most vicious ideologies of hate this world has ever seen.”
Shirley was one of at least 100 Western fighters who signed up with various groups fighting ISIS. Many of the foreign fighters are military veterans who bring tactical experience to the battlefield against the terrorist group. Kurdish groups are often very open to foreign fighters joining their ranks, sometimes using them for propaganda purposes on social media.
Various Kurdish groups, including the YPG and Syrian Democratic Forces, are engaged in a months-long siege of Manbij. The groups are supported by U.S.-led Operation Inherent Resolve airstrikes. Ground forces were able to enter the outskirts of the city in late June, though their progress was slowed by improvised explosive devices and other traps left by ISIS fighters.
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