TWO British men, one of them a Scot, have travelled to Syria to help fight against Islamic State militants.
Jamie Read, from Newmains, North Lanarkshire, joined his friend and former soldier James Hughes, from Reading, to defend a city in northern Syria.
The pair have denied being mercenaries, saying they are receiving no payment and are fighting for “humanitarian reasons”.
Mr Read, who spent time training with the French army, is understood to be in Rojava, helping defend the beleaguered city of Kobani on behalf of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, the YPG.
Graham Penrose, a spokesman for the pair, said they were motivated to fight after seeing what was happening in the bloody conflict, including in Kobani.
He said: “Over the course of the last 12 months, the lack of assistance that the Kurds in particular have received in trying to protect themselves motivated the guys to see if there was some assistance they could lend.
“They are not being paid, they are receiving no payment. There is no promises of payments, no payment in kind, they are not participating for any commercial gain.
“They are simply out there to help people who are in need of help.”
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He added: “I personally, and the people who know them, feel they deserve a lot better than having themselves described as mercenaries. They are not mercenaries.”
The pair have apparently been joined by Jordan Matson, a former US soldier who decided to help Kurdish forces after watching the battle for Kobani on the news.
Friends and family took to Mr Read’s Facebook page after he posted a picture of himself in military gear alongside Mr Matson, who is thought to have recruited the British men.
On the social media site, Mr Read claimed he had been fighting in northern Syria, writing on Thursday: “S**t hit the fan.”
He then went on to talk about an apparent brush with death, to which Mr Matson replied: “It’s always interesting the first time you have a bullet fly past your head.”
In another post from 5 November, Mr Read wrote: “Well boys and girls... It looks like all the hard work has paid off I got my good news, most of you know what I’m doing for those that don’t you will have to wait haha can’t really say on here but all I can say is this time next week I will be living the dream.”
His sister, Kayleigh Reid, wrote: “You look all grown up.”
One friend, Tony McSkimmings, wrote: “You keep the hard work up pal.”
Mr Read replied: “Cheers boys miss you lads hard work over here.”
Kurdish rights campaigner Mark Campbell said he was aware of Mr Read and Mr Hughes’ actions. He said: “Some are travelling for humanitarian reasons, but others are going to the frontline with the YPG.”
Kurdish sources estimate dozens may have travelled from Britain to the Middle East.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “The UK advises against all travel to Syria and parts of Iraq. Anyone who does travel to these areas, for whatever reason, is putting themselves in considerable danger. The best way to help the people of these countries is to donate to registered charities.”
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