First British female foreign fighter killed by Turkish fire in Syria's Afrin

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Anna Campbell was killed on 16 March after her convoy was struck by a Turkish missile

A picture of Anna Campbell distributed by the YPG (handout)
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Monday 19 March 2018 12:31 UTC
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The first British female fighter has been killed fighting alongside the pro-Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) in Syria.

Anna Campbell, from Lewes in East Sussex, was killed in the Syrian city of Afrin on 16 March after her convoy was struck by a Turkish missile, according to the Guardian.

The 26 year old originally travelled to YPG-held territory in northern Syria to fight the Islamic State group, but persuaded her commanders to redeploy her to Afrin to fight the invading Turkish-backed forces.

She is the first British foreign fighter to be killed by Turkish forces since their operation began on 20 January. She was a member of the all-female Women's Protection Units (YPJ), which is part of the YPG.

“[Campbell’s] martyrdom is a great loss to us because with her international soul, her revolutionary spirit, which demonstrated the power of women, she expressed her will in all her actions," said Nesrin Abdullah, a spokesperson for the YPJ, speaking to the Guardian.

"On behalf of the Women’s Defence Units YPJ, we express our deepest condolences to [her] family and we promise to follow the path she took up. We will represent her in the entirety of our struggles.”

The UK Foreign Office told Middle East Eye it had "nothing specific to offer...on the specifics of this case at present".

“The UK advises against all travel to Syria and we are unable to provide any consular assistance there. It is extremely difficult to confirm the status and whereabouts of British nationals in Syria and anybody who travels to Syria against our advice is putting themselves at considerable risk, particularly if they travel to join an armed group," they said.

"We urge strongly against any participation in this kind of activity.”

On 18 February, the YPG announced the deaths of three other foreign fighters killed in clashes with Turkish forces.

They named the fighters as French national Olivier Francois Jean Le Clainche, 41, Spanish national Samuel Prada Leon, 25, and Dutch national Sjoerd Heeger, 25. 

Le Clainche and Leon died "in the clashes with the occupiers at the Jandairis front on February 10," the YPG said, referring to a town in southerwestern Afrin.

Hundreds of foreign fighters have travelled to fight with the YPG, primarily motivated by the campaign against IS, but also due to political support for the YPG's ideology.

The Syrian Observatory on Human Rights said Sunday that more than 1,500 Kurdish fighters had been killed since the start of the offensive, most of them in air strikes and artillery fire.

More than 400 pro-Ankara rebels have also been killed, it said. The Turkish military says 46 Turkish soldiers have died.

At least 289 civilians including 28 children were killed in the fighting, mostly in air strikes and shelling by Turkish forces since the operation began on 20 January, according to the observatory.

Turkey sees the YPG as a "terrorist" offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has waged a decades-long insurgency against the Turkish state.

But the Kurdish militia has also formed the backbone of a US-backed alliance that successfully expelled IS from large parts of Syria.

Around 150,000 people have fled Afrin in recent days as Turkish forces surrounded Afrin and seized the city.

Additional reporting by AFP