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Flint woman killed while fighting in Syria


Update 11:03 a.m.

Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek is following this story for us. The Associated Press has this update on Nicole Lynn Mansfield. They report the family didn't know she was in the Middle East and that Mansfield wanted to be a "peacemaker."

Relatives of a 33-year-old Michigan woman killed in fighting in Syria say they didn't even know she was in the Middle East but that she always wanted to be a peacemaker. Monica Mansfield-Speelman said Friday that her niece, Nicole Lynn Mansfield, became interested in the region after converting to Islam and marrying an Arab immigrant several years ago. The marriage ended but Mansfield-Speelman says Mansfield remained Muslim and visited Dubai about three years ago... Mansfield-Speelman says she hadn't spoken with Mansfield since September, and last she knew Mansfield was in Kentucky.

9:20 a.m.

The family of 33-year-old Nicole Lynn Mansfield of Flint, Michigan says she was killed in fighting in Syria.

Mansfield's aunt, Monica Mansfield Speelman, told the Detroit Free Press that her niece had converted to Islam and married an Arab immigrant several years ago but later divorced him.

The FBI confirmed her death with the family last night in Flint.

The FBI confirmed to them news reports from Syrian television that Mansfield was killed while fighting in Syria, said Monica Mansfield Speelman, 53, of Flint, an aunt of Nicole. A Syrian media outlet linked to the government reported that Mansfield was killed earlier this week while fighting in Idlib, Syria, with opposition forces, showing a photograph of what it said was her driver’s license. It showed Mansfield wearing an Islamic headscarf and listed her address in Flint.

The family confirmed the driver's license was hers. Mansfield's aunt told Reuters, "I'm just devastated."

The Freep's Niraj Warikoo has more on Mansfield's history:

Nicole Mansfield grew up Baptist in Flint. Her dad was a production worker at General Motors. Her parents divorced and Mansfield dropped out of high school after she got pregnant. She later got a GED and attended Mott Community College, Carole Mansfield said. She worked as a home health care worker for about 10 years, helping elderly people. She was smart in school, the grandmother said, but at the same time, was too trusting. “She had a heart of gold, but she was weak-minded,” Mansfield said. “I think she could have been brainwashed.”

Syrian news reports say Mansfield was killed with two other westerners who were fighting for the opposition to Syria's government.

Mark Brush was the station's Digital Media Director. He succumbed to a year-long battle with glioblastoma, an aggressive brain cancer, in March 2018. He was 49 years old.