Syrian state-run television has reported that American citizen Nicole Lynn Mansfield — identified by her Michigan driver's license and passport — was killed by pro-regime Armed Protective Forces in Idleb, Syria, along with two other foreigners including a UK citizen. According to CBS News, it has been confirmed that the deceased American woman is fact Nicole Lynn Mansfield — a Flint, Michigan Native. The State Department is investigating the circumstances of her death. Now reports indicate that Mansfield may have been killed while allegedly fighting with rebels opposed to the Assad regime.
Syrian news stated in an article that 33-year-old Mansfield was a "mercenary" fighting for the opposition in Syria's Civil War. Other reports coming out of the war-torn country have called the American woman and the two other killed Westerners, "spies" and "opposition militants." Syria has been entrenched in a two year long bloody civil war which has pit government forces against rebel fighters. Thus, media coverage inside the devastated country is limited and censored by President al-Assad's government.
Heavy.com contacted the CIA as well as the FBI for more information but they refused to comment on our investigation.
Here are the facts we have uncovered about the American citizen who was killed in Syria:
1. Syrian Newscasts Show Mansfield's Dead Body
The report above shows footage of the ambushed car as well as the bodies of the killed westerners. The report states that "armed forced ambushed a terrorist group near a canned food factory."Pictures of Mansfield's body as well as I.D and passport, were also posted on to Live Leak. There are also pictures of the bodies of the two other men who were also killed in the ambush. One image shows a myriad of weapons, a computer and a jihadist flag — contents reported to have been found in the car where Mansfield and the other two were ambushed.
State-run news agency said that the bodies were of a "militant ...of British nationality, born in London 1990, and a woman from the U.S. state of Michigan, and called Nicole Lynn Mansfeld born in 1980" while the third body did not "carry any document [that] reveal his identity."
Photos of the other foreigners and their bodies were posted on breakingnews.sy.
Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) reported that the three were killed after they were found "snooping" around a military base. Field sources told SANA that the three foreigners were near a military base and that one of them "threw a grenade"which prompted protective sources to open fire.
Israel National News, however, claims that the three individuals were setting up an observation post next to an abandoned factory when a group of Syrian soldiers approached them. The three then threw a hand grenade at them to which the soldiers responded by shooting and killing them. The soldiers reportedly found drawings of security installations in the area as well as firearms and a laptop.
2. Syria's Government Says She Was a Terrorist
Syria's Government Claims She Was Fighting with "al-Qaida" rebel factions fighting against President al-Assad's regime. The Syrian government is also claiming that Mansfield was linked to al-Nusra, a rebel group affiliated with al-Qaida. A flag associated to the group was reportedly found along with her passport and I.Ds. This has not been confirmed. According to Keir Simmons, correspondant to NBC news, Mansfield and the unidentified British man were called "martyrs" by militant jihadist group Jabhat al Nusra. Muna Jondy, a Syrian-American activist who is president of the Flint-based United for a Free Syria, told the Detroit Free Press that she hadn’t heard of Mansfield. She also warned about accepting the Syrian television report because the station is linked to the Bashar al-Assad government, which is battling opposition forces and may be reporting propaganda.
During a conversation about a month ago, Mansfield daughter said, her mother told her she planned to be home within a week, but during their next talk a week or two later she told her daughter that her ID had been stolen and she was not able to return. Keir Simmons, correspondant for NBC News, has reported that a militant jihadist group called Nicole Mansfield and the other two killed Westerners, "martyrs."
American woman and British man 'martyred in Syria' according to militant jihadist group Jabhat al-Nusra.
— Keir Simmons (@KeirSimmons) May 30, 2013
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said that some 1,500 to 2,000 American fighters may be in Syria. "It's hard to get a peg on the exact number," he said at a joint news conference in Washington with German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle.
3. It All Happened in a Heavily War-Torn Syrian City
Syria is embroiled in a violent civil war and Idlib is a particularly contested area for government forces and rebel fighters.
Idlib is a city in northwestern Syria. Idlib had been an opposition stronghold during the Syrian civil war against the government of Bashar al- Assad. The city and nearby town have been targeted for hosting large numbers of armed groups such as the Free Syrian Army and other opponents of the government. In March, Syria's armed forces began shelling parts of Idlib and on the 13th, the government captured the city following a three-day operation. Many security buildings in the center of Idlib have become targets of many car bombs placed by anti- government groups.
Rebel groups are known to lead training sessions near Idlib.
4. She Converted to Islam After Getting Married 3 Years Ago
David Speelman of Flint said he is Mansfield’s cousin and told the Associated Press that FBI agents visited family members Thursday and informed them of her death. The family has also been interviewed by agents. FBI Detroit spokesman, Simon Shaykhet has not commented on the matter.
Mansfield's aunt, Monica Mansfield Speelman, told the Detroit Free Press that her niece was a convert to Islam who married an Arab immigrant named several years ago. Heavy investigated public records and they support allegations that Mansfield was married and divorced soon after. The family's testimony brings to light speculation that the divorce happened once Bafil was able to obtain his Green Card for prolonged residency.
According to Detroit Free Press, Speelman and other family members said Mansfield met an immigrant from the Arab world several years ago and married him. She then converted to Islam and started wearing the hijab. About two to three years ago, Mansfield went to Dubai "for religious purposes" ,and came back after her family urged her to come home.
We found this Pinterest account of a woman under the name "Nicole Mansfield" — her hometown is listed as Flint, Michigan. One album is called "Islam". The account has been inactive for the past 10 weeks.
5. Daughter Says She Was a "Normal American Woman"
Nicole Mansfield apparantly has a 18-year-old daughter .Manfield dropped out of highschool after she got pregnant at the age of 18. She later got a GED and attended Mott Community College, her aunt Carole Mansfield said. Mansfield reportedly worked as a home health care worker for about 10 years, helping elderly people.
According to the New York Daily News, Mansfield's daughter has come out to her mother's defense — denying ties to terrorism calling her a "regular American woman who was misguided by the people." During a conversation about a month ago, Mansfield daughter said, her mother told her she planned to be home within a week, but during their next talk a week or two later she told her daughter that her ID had been stolen and she was not able to return.Triana has commented also commented on Heavy.com's YouTube video about this case in reply to YouTube users claiming that her mother was a CIA agent or a terrorist:
On Triana's YouTube page, there is a video post titled "Free Palestine". The video shows an anti-Israel protest in downtown Flint in which at around Nicole Lynn Mansfield makes an appearance (0:05-0:30 & 0:53-0:57 & 2:33- 2:50)
It is unclear how long Mansfield was in Syria. According to local news: Mansfield lived in an apartment complex at a different address on Longway Boulevard. An eviction notice for Mansfield was posted on the door on May 21, 2013. She is reported to have paid $475 per month, for a three-bedroom apartment since Oct. 8, 2012. Local news reports that Mansfield was not there for long as she began to secretly sublet her room to other tenants. The subleters stopped paying rent under Manfield name and came clean around March. Since the rent was not paid, a judge signed an eviction notice.
This a Google street view of the address on the I.D.