Six volunteer fighters, two from the US and one from the UK, were killed in Syria while fighting alongside Kurdish forces to retake the city of Raqqa from Islamic State.
On Tuesday, the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) press office announced the deaths of Nicholas Warden, 29, from New York; Luke Rutter, 24, from Birkenhead; and Robert Grodt, 28, from California, referring to them as “martyrs.”
“Comrades Demhat, Rodi and Soro, like all their other comrades, joined the fight to end Daesh’s barbarity and sacrificed themselves for a common and free life for all peoples,” the statement from the YPG said, referring to the men by their Kurdish names. “As the YPG, we renew our vows to our comrades and promise that we will stay true to their memories and crown the revolution with victory.”
YPG fighters said that Warden and Rutter were both killed on July 5, “during the big campaign to liberate Raqqa from the terrorism of IS,” according to the BBC. Grodt died the next day from injuries sustained in the fight, according to the Guardian.
A YPG source told the Guardian that the men died while on patrol a few miles from the center of Raqqa, the de facto capital of the Islamic State (IS, formerly known as ISIL/ISIS) after a fighter stepped on a landmine and they were ambushed by IS, who were reportedly armed with rocket-propelled grenades and small arms.
Before they died, all three men recorded videos for the YPG, detailing their reasons for joining the fight against IS, and sending messages back to their families. The videos were posted to Twitter by the YPG on Tuesday, to honor their memory.
In his video, Warden, who previously served with the US Army in Afghanistan, said he traveled from Buffalo, New York, to fight ISIS “because of the terrorist attacks they were doing in Orlando, in San Bernardino, in Nice, in Paris.” When he joined the YPG in February, Warden took the Kurdish name Rodî Deysie.
Robert Grodt, previously served as an activist during the Occupy Wall Street movement, where he made headlines for coming to the aid of fellow activist and future partner, Kaylee Dedrick, who was pepper sprayed by police in a video that went viral.
In his video, Grodt said he joined the YPG to “help the Kurdish people in their struggle for autonomy within Syria and elsewhere,” adding he wanted to fight IS and “help create a more secure world.” He apologized to his five-year-old daughter for not being there. When Grodt joined the YPG in March, he took the Kurdish name Demhat Goldman.
According to the Washington Post, the deaths of Warden and Grodt bring the total number of Americans killed fighting alongside the YPG to around a dozen.
In his video, Luke Rutter said he joined the YPG without informing his family, and apologized “massively” for telling them he was going somewhere else. However, he said that he did not regret the decision, because he thought the YPG was “the best opportunity for peace this region might have.” When he joined in March, Rutter took the Kurdish name Soro Zinar.
According to the BCC, Rutter is the fourth British man to be killed fighting against IS in Syria.