ERBIL, Kurdistan (Rudaw) – Two Western volunteers fighting with the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Rojava, northern Syria have been killed in the campaign to liberate Manbij from the Islamic State (ISIS).
Dean Carl Evans, known by his Kurdish name Gîvara Rojava, born in Reading, UK, was killed on July 21.
Martin Gruden, known as Rodî Çekdar, born in Ljubljana, Slovenia, was killed on July 27, 2016.
In a statement announcing their deaths, the YPG described the two as having “revolutionary and warrior spirits.”
They “fought without hesitation,” the statement continues, “and have sacrificed their spirit to protect the people of this region.”
The YPG offered condolences to the families of Evans and Gruden who, with their blood have “irrigated the flowers of freedom and peace.”
Many foreigners have joined the Kurdish forces in Rojava and northern Syria fighting ISIS. At least two others have been killed in the same offensive to retake Manbij. A Portuguese fighter, Mario Nunes, was killed in June, and American Levi Jonathan Shirley was killed on July 14.
The operation to retake Manbij, named after Kurdish commander Abu Leyla who was killed in the offensive, was launched in late May by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a multi-ethnic force dominated by the Kurdish YPG.
Manbij is considered a key city as it lies on the route connecting ISIS in their de facto capital Raqqa with Turkey. ISIS militants are putting up a fierce fight to hold the city, planting thousands of improvised explosives and using human shields. This has made progress of the coalition-backed SDF into the city slow but steady.
Coalition forces carrying out airstrikes on the city have been accused of killing civilians. The United States is investigating the reports.