Former British soldiers are reportedly in northern Syria battling the Islamic State group alongside Kurdish fighters – but who are they? And what happens when they come back?
Growing numbers of Britons are among foreigners joining the fight against the Islamic State (IS) group in Syria, according to reports emerging from the country’s border.
Two former British soldiers have apparently joined Kurdish fighters near the besieged town of Kobani to defend against IS militants, said the Observer.
Former infantryman James Hughes from Reading, Berkshire appears to be fighting alongside his friend Jamie Read, from Newmains, north Lanarkshire.
Mr Read served in the British Army’s infantry for five years until January 2014, according to his Facebook page, while Mr Hughes says on Facebook he trained with the French army.
Mr Read, nicknamed “The Beard”, was apparently involved in a gunfight this week, writing on his Facebook page: “Sh*t hit the fan my ass was going 5 to 10”.
The two Britons appear to have been recruited by Jordan Matson, an American working on behalf of the Kurdish YPG movement, who told the Observer that Mr Hughes and Mr Read were with him.
Mr Matson said in a Facebook post: “I was with ‘The Beard’ for his cherry being popped at being shot at. It was interesting.
“Its always interesting the first time you have a bullet fly past your head.”
Mr Read wrote in response: “Cheers bro would be lost with out you.”
The Home Office says fighting in foreign conflicts could be an offence under UK law, but a distinction has been drawn between fighting for IS forces and fighting with Kurdish soldiers opposing them.
“UK law makes provisions to deal with different conflicts in different ways – fighting in a foreign war is not automatically an offence but will depend on the nature of the conflict and the individual’s own activities,” the Home Office has said.
Dozens of Britons are thought to have travelled abroad to fight with the Kurds, although the number travelling to fight with IS is thought to be in the hundreds.
A picture of James Hughes posted on his Facebook page
American Jordan Matson (left) with Jamie Read (Facebook)