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First US volunteer killed fighting for YPG in Syria

Kurdish militias have begun advancing across the Islamic State heartland of Raqqa
‏A Kurdish girl holds up a picture of Keith Broomfield (Twitter/@kovandire)

The first American has been killed fighting the Islamic State (IS) in Syria, in the ranks of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).

Keith Broomfield’s death, which reportedly occurred on 3 June near the border town of Kobane, was announced on Wednesday, with his mother confirming his death in a phone interview with NBC.

"I'm waiting for his body to come back," she told the network.

Kobane, which entered the headlines in January after coming under siege by IS, held a funeral for Broomfield on Thursday, displaying pictures and the YPG flag draped over his coffin.

In a video released on YouTube, Broomfield explained his motives behind joining the YPG fighters.

“I’m here to do what I can to help Kurdistan, with everything that’s going on it seemed like the right thing to do,” he said.

“I want to help the cause in any way I can.”

Hundreds of Americans have travelled to Syria to fight with both IS and anti-IS forces.

Raqqa advances

The news comes as YPG fighters and Syrian opposition fighters reportedly advanced into the IS-controlled town of Salouk in the countryside of Raqqa province, which lies only 83km away from the IS "capital" of Raqqa city.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said YPG forces backed by Arab rebel fighters "stormed the town of Suluk and took control of the eastern part of it." The town lies to the east of Tal Abyad, a key border town that is controlled by IS.

"The Kurds plan to lay siege to Tal Abyad," said the SOHR.

The YPG press office said on Thursday that it had taken 15 villages and 16 hamlets from IS forces in the cantons of Kobane and Cizire.

They added that IS had launched an attack on Qirat village to the south of Kobane, but had been repulsed.

The YPG and their political allies in the Democratic Union Party (PYD) have exploited the vacuum created by the collapse of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's power in the north of Syria to create autonomous regions set up on the principle of "democratic confederalism".

They have frequently clashed with IS fighers, who view them as "atheists" and "communists" for their Marxist and anarchist-inspired ideologies.