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Michigan woman the first American killed in Syrian civil war

Ryan Garza
Detroit Free Press

Last month, a Michigan woman became the first American killed in the Syrian civil war.

Over the weekend, Niraj Warikoo at the Detroit Free Press profiled Nicole Mansfield, a 33-year-old Grand Blanc native who was killed on May 29 in the Syrian city of Idilib.

According to Mansfield’s family, Nicole’s conversion to Islam “five to six years ago” raised red flags and strained familial relationships. From Warikoo’s article:

“In March, Gregory Mansfield tried one last time to persuade his daughter to quit obsessing about the Arab world and Islam. He called and left a voice mail, pleading with her: ‘What are you doing? Where are you at? Don’t make me go back to the FBI about this.’ ‘I got no response,’ he said. ‘After that, everything was just literally shut off.’ “

Nicole’s 18-year-old daughter Triana remembers singing anti-Israel and anti-American songs with her mother in the car.

Triana’s last contact with her mother was just over a month ago, when Nicole reached her daughter from an unfamiliar number.

“She texted me one day, out of nowhere,” Triana recalled in a Facebook post. “She said she couldn’t tell me where she was or who she was with. She also couldn’t talk to me over the phone. We stopped talking after that.”

Mansfield had made a trip to the Middle East, first reaching Tunisia, then heading to Turkey, and finally Syria. The war-torn country would be her last stop. 


According to reports from a Syrian TV station, Mansfield was killed in May while attempting to snap photos of military sites near the Syria-Turkey border. The station reported that Mansfield and two others threw grenades at the Syrian military when confronted by troops. But family members say that Nicole wasn’t the violent type.

“She was not throwing no grenades,” said her father. “That wasn’t no Nikki. I just cannot see it. ... She was terrified of guns. ... I’ve never seen her handle a gun in my life.”

For more on the story, check out the feature in the Freep.


- Melanie Kruvelis, Michigan Radio Newsroom

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