Family fears worst for U.S. Muslim woman thought to be killed in Syria

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The family of a US woman believed to have been killed in Syria was anxiously awaiting news of her fate Friday, after reports that she was shot dead by regime forces near the border with Turkey.

“Keep us in your prayers,” Carole Mansfield told AFP as she awaited confirmation from U.S. officials that her granddaughter, Nicole Lynn Mansfield, was among three Westerners reportedly killed on Wednesday.

Mansfield, 33, grew up in Flint, Michigan and was raised a Baptist. She converted to Islam about five or six years ago and briefly married an Arab immigrant, her grandmother said.

“She was a caring person. A firm believer in what she believed in. And a giving person,” Carole Mansfield said.

“If you were down and out she would have been the first to come to your rescue.”

FBI agents came to Mansfield’s home Thursday trying to piece together how -- or if -- her granddaughter ended up in Syria. They warned the family that the reported death was not yet confirmed, Mansfield said.

A U.S. State Department official told AFP on Thursday that Washington was “aware of the case” and working to get more information. An FBI spokesman contacted by AFP declined to comment on the report.

Mansfield said she hadn’t seen her granddaughter in months and had no idea that she was in Syria -- or why she would be there.

Nicole Mansfield apparently called her aunt in Cincinnati about a month ago and told her that she was out of the country but would be home “soon” and would stop by to see her when she got back.

Her 18-year-old daughter is taking the reports of her death particularly hard, while her father remains in denial, Carole Mansfield said.

“She is devastated. very devastated,” she said in a telephone interview.

A monitoring group reported Thursday that Syrian soldiers killed three Westerners, including an American woman and a British man, both Muslims, in northwest Idlib province near the Turkish border.

“They were shot dead during an ambush in the Idlib region and the army found them with maps of military positions,” said Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The three had apparently been taking photos of military positions on the road between Harim, near the border with Turkey, and the town of Idlib further south when government troops ambushed them, he added.

The nationality of the third Westerner was not clear, said Rahman.

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