Kurdish YPG fighters (file)
Kurdish YPG fighters (file)Reuters

A US citizen killed fighting for Kurdish forces against Islamic State (ISIS) jihadists in the Kobane region of northern Syria was celebrated by his Kurdish brothers-in-arms, the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) said Friday.

Keith Broomfield, 37, was killed on June 3 in an operation to take the village of Qentere in the Kobane region from ISIS, the YPG said in a statement quoted by the pro-Kurdish Firat news agency.

His body had on Thursday been driven through the Mursitpinar border gate to the Turkish side of the border with local Kurds turning out in force, making "V" signs and chanting slogans praising Broomfield, an AFP photographer said.

In the border town of Suruc, hundreds of Kurds lined the road, letting off fireworks, waving Kurdish flags and shouting, 'martyrs never die'. The body was taken to the city of Adana ahead of expected repatriation back home.

The US State Department had Wednesday announced an American man had been killed in Syria, without confirming reports that he died fighting alongside Kurdish forces against the ISIS.

Reports said Broomfield is believed to be the first US citizen killed fighting for the Kurds against ISIS.

The YPG said that Broomfield, from Massachusetts, had taken up arms in Kurdish ranks in late February under the Kurdish nom-de-guerre of Gelhat Rumet. 

"We announce his death in great sadness and commemorate his enthusiasm and his valuable comradeship," said the YPG.

"We offer our condolences to the family of Keith, to all American people and the people of Kurdistan, and we reiterate our promise to carry the aims of all martyrs to victory," it added.

YPG fighters have for the last months been locked in intense battles with ISIS jihadists for control of the Kurdish-populated regions of northern Syria, just over the Turkish border.

They scored a major victory at the start of this year by winning the battle for the hugely symbolic main town of Kobane but fighting is still raging elsewhere.

Dozens of Westerners are believed to have joined Kurdish forces in Syria, defying warnings from their governments.

Briton Konstandinos Erik Scurfield, Australian Ashley Johnston and German woman Ivana Hoffmann were killed earlier this year fighting on the side of the Kurds.

In a video taken before his death and released by the YPG, Broomfield said he has come to the region "to do whatever I can to help Kurdistan."

"It seems like the right thing to do," he said.