Australian killed fighting Isis in West Kurdistan identified on social media
Fighters of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) prepare their weapons in the Assyrian village of Tel Jumaa, in northeast Syria on Wednesday. Photograph: Reuters
The former Australian soldier killed fighting with Kurdish forces against Islamic State has been identified on social media as 28-year-old Queenslander Ashley Johnston.Johnston, a former army reservist, is believed to the first Westerner killed fighting with a militia, Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).A tribute posted on the Lions of Rojava Facebook page claimed he was killed during an assault around Tuesday on an Islamic State position at a small village near Sinjar in West Kurdistan.
“Throughout his time in Kurdistan, he had a positive impact on my people’s lives though his humility and kindness to everyone he met,” the post said.“His squad of eight fighters where in a truck which had broken down and it was critical that they dislodge Isis from their positions so they pushed on fearlessly with little regard for the own safety.“They where [sic] massively outnumbered and outgunned but fearless in the face of this as they knew another Isis death meant saving the lives of countless civilians. He was a fearless and exceptional soldier as well as a great man.
“Please keep his family and loved ones in your prayers and remember him and his heroic actions, which saved his comrades.“He has given his life in the line of duty for his brothers in arms and for humanity in riding [sic] this world of the greatest evil of the 21st century. Isis.”The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported the death on Tuesday and confirmed the man’s nationality on Wednesday.Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said there were westerners fighting on all sides of Syria’s civil war.
“The YPG isn’t actively recruiting foreigners, but people from countries like Canada, the United States, Britain, Spain, Australia, Holland, Austria and France have travelled to Syria to join their ranks,” he said.
In December, Australia revealed that 20 of its citizens who had travelled to Syria and Iraq to join Isis had been killed.Kurds are fighting Isis on multiple fronts, with backing from a US-led coalition that launched strikes on jihadist positions in August, and Syria in September.