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Nicole Mansfield 'just a regular American', says daughter
The daughter of an US citizen killed while fighting in Syria has dismissed claims that her mother was a terrorist, and said she was "just a regular American".
On a Facebook page set up in the memory of Nicole Lynn Mansfield - who was among three westerners who died in an apparent ambush earlier this week - her 18-year-old daughter Triana Lynn Mansfield said her mother was killed by the Syrian government for "media publicity".
Adding that she did not know why her mother was in the country, Mansfield criticised those who have alleged that her mother was a terrorist or working for the CIA.
"She was just a regular American woman who was misguided by the people who just wanted to use her because she's American," she said.
Nicole Lynn Mansfield, the only American known to have been killed in the Syrian conflict, died in Idlib province in the north of the country. State media reported that she, along with two others - believed to be an a British man and a Canadian - were killed fighting for the opposition. Some reports further implied that all three were with the group al-Nusra, an affiliate of al-Qaida.
Speaking from the family hometown of Flint, Michigan, relatives of Mansfield said they did not know who she had been with and were not even aware that she was in the region.
"I didn't think she was [a terrorist], but God only knows," her aunt, Monica Mansfield-Speelman, told the Detroit Free Press.
"I'm just devastated," she told Reuters.
But her grandmother Carole Mansfield told the newspaper that although Mansfield possessed "a heart of gold", she was "weak-minded". "I think she could have been brainwashed," she claimed.
The FBI informed the 33-year-old's parents of her death on Thursday, relatives said.
Syrian TV footage of the aftermath of the fighting showed a black Volkswagen Golf - in which the trio had reportedly been travelling - riddled with bullets. A British man named as Ali Almanasfi is also thought to have been one of those killed. The identity and nationality of the third person has not been officially released.
Reports suggested that Kalashnikovs were retrieved from the scene. Nicole Lynn Mansfield was identified from a driving license and her US passport, according to Syrian reports.
Family members in Flint told reporters that Mansfield had been brought up a Baptist but converted to Islam after marrying a Muslim several years ago. After the marriage ended, Mansfield-Speelman said her niece remained a Muslim and had visited Dubai about three years ago.
It remains unclear how or when she and her companions entered Syria, though it is thought likely that they went in from Turkey.
It is not known which arm of the opposition in Syria Mansfield was fighting with. "I didn't think she would stoop that low to go over there and try to harm anybody," her aunt said.
On Facebook, a woman who says she is Manfield's daughter, Triana Lynn Mansfield, posted a series of pictures which appeared to be of the pair together and posted a message in her memory:
"I love you forever and always mom, I will never forget everything you taught me. I wish I could honour in some other way but I have no control what happens to you now. I will try to not give up on life even though I really want to. I just want to see your face, hear your voice, and touch your skin again. But I'll stay strong. And you will never be forgotten."
The Guardian has not been able to independently authenticate Triana Lynn Mansfield's Facebook page.
In a statement Friday, the State Department would only say that it was "aware of the reports" of the death of a US citizen.
Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki added: "We are not able to confirm the death at this time, in light of the security situation in Syria and given that we do not have consular officers on the ground."
She went on to thank the work of the Czech mission in Syria for assisting the US in the matter.
[Source: Matt Williams in New York, The Guardina, London, 31May13]
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