A British man fighting against the Islamic State terrorist group has been killed while clearing land mines in the Syrian city of Raqqa, days after the dreaded outfit’s de facto capital was liberated, his mother has said. Jac Holmes was a painter and decorator in the sea-side town of Bournemouth on the southern coast of England when he decided to travel to Syria to join the Kurdish militia People’s Protection Units (YPG) in 2015.
The 24-year-old’s mother told the BBC that she was proud of what he had done in Syria when his death was announced by the International Peshmerga Volunteers, who are fighting ISIS alongside Kurdish forces in Iraq, on their Facebook page on Tuesday.
They reported that Holmes was killed while he was clearing an area of land mines in Raqqa to make it safe for civilians.
“He loved what he was doing there, he loved being a soldier. He had the courage of his convictions,” said Angie Blannin.
“He was just a boy when he left the UK, a little bit lost. He told me he didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life. But by going out there, he found something that he was good at and that he loved,” she said.
Holmes’ mother said she had been in touch with her son online and he had been planning to visit home after the liberation of the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa in Syria recently.
“We thought with any luck he’d be home for Christmas. It had been so tough since he had been away but I was always 100 per cent behind him. After all this, he had said he might go into politics, or perhaps into close protection security. He’d seen so much for a boy of his age,” she added.
Several Britons are believed to have joined the YPG, widely lauded for fighting against ISIS but the group is also linked to the PKK, an insurgent group in Turkey.
Ozkan Ozdil, who fought with Holmes in Syria, said he had become well-known and respected among Kurdish fighting units.
“Everybody knew Jac. By his third tour out there his Kurdish was fluent. We had a bit of a laugh that he was my Kurdish translator,” he said.
Holmes, also known by his Kurdish adopted name of Sores Amanos – “sores” meaning “revolution”, fought in operations to push Islamic State (ISIS) out of Syrian towns and villages including Tel Hamis, Manbij, Tabqa and Raqqa.
He said he knew he could face arrest by the UK authorities for fighting abroad, but said in the past that he hoped that the British justice system would work in the “correct way”.
Seen as among the earliest and highest-profile recruits to the YPG, Holmes regularly posted live broadcasts from inside Syria on his Facebook page.
The Syrian Democratic Forces with the support from the US-led international coalition declared on Friday the “total liberation” of Raqqa, which for more than three years was the de facto capital of ISIS terror group.