Michigan woman, 33, killed in Syria fight, family says

A 33-year-old Michigan woman was killed in Syria while fighting for opposition forces, relatives said.

Nicole Lynn Mansfield, of Flint, and two other were fighters for a group opposed to Syria’s government and were killed during a confrontation in Idlib, according to a pro-Syrian government news agency. The circumstances of the deaths could not immediately be confirmed.

Mansfield’s cousin, David Speelman, of Flint, told The Associated Press that FBI agents visited family members Thursday and informed them of Mansfield's death. FBI Detroit spokesman Simon Shaykhet told the AP he can't comment on the matter.

Speelman's mother, Monica Mansfield Speelman, told the Detroit Free Press that her niece was a convert to Islam who married an Arab immigrant several years ago but later divorced him. The family was not happy about Mansfield's conversion to Islam, said Monica Speelman and Mansfield's grandmother, Carole Mansfield.

"She had a heart of gold, but she was weak-minded,” Carole Mansfield told the newspaper. "I think she could have been brain washed."

Nicole Mansfield was raised as a Baptist and her father was a General Motors production worker, relatives said. She quit high school after becoming pregnant but later earned her GED, attended community college and worked in home health care for 10 years, they said.

She told people “that the best way of life was to be a Muslim,” Carole Mansfield told the Detroit Free Press. “And that women should always cover their head.”

Mansfield, according to the Syrian government news agency report, was fighting with two other people from England and reportedly had rifles, clips of ammunition, grenades and the flag of al-Nusra, an Al Qaeda-related group.

“I’m sick over it,” Speelman told the Detroit Free Press of her niece’s death. “I didn’t think she was (a terrorist), but God only knows.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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