US woman Nicole Mansfield killed fighting in Syria

BBC's Rajini Vaidyanathan spoke to Nicole Mansfield's family

An American woman has been killed in Syria fighting for opposition forces, her family have been told by the FBI.

Nicole Mansfield, 33 and from Flint in Michigan, converted to Islam about five years ago, her aunt told Reuters news agency.

The family did not know the details of how she died, the agency reported.

State-run TV in Syria showed pictures of a passport and a Michigan driving licence apparently belonging to Ms Mansfield.

She is the only American known to have died in the conflict in Syria. An estimated 70,000 people are believed to have died since violence broke out more than two years ago.

'Known to take off'

On Thursday a monitoring group said three foreigners had been killed in Syria including an American woman and a British man. Both were reported to be Muslims.

They were in Idlib province near the Turkish border, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Grab from Syrian TV showing apparent USA passport with photo of woman Syrian state TV broadcast footage showing what it said was an American passport belonging to Nicole Mansfield

"They were shot dead during an ambush in the Idlib region and the army found them with maps of military positions," Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the monitoring group, told the AFP news agency.

The woman's cousin David Speelman told the Associated Press that FBI agents had visited the family on Thursday to tell them of Ms Mansfield's death.

The Detroit Free Press reported that Ms Mansfield, who was raised a Baptist, had previously been married to an Arab man and had a teenage daughter.

After her marriage ended, Ms Mansfield remained a Muslim and travelled to Dubai to learn about Arab culture, her aunt Monica Mansfield-Speelman told the AFP news agency.

She said she had last heard from her niece in September.

"We didn't know she was over there," Ms Mansfield-Speelman said. "We didn't know she was gone, but Nicole, she was known to take off like that."

The photographs on her ID show her wearing a hijab or Muslim headscarf.

It is reported that Ms Mansfield had dropped out of school after becoming pregnant but later gained her GED or high school equivalency qualification.

She had worked in healthcare for the past decade.

Her father was a General Motors production worker.

Her grandmother told the newspaper that she had "a heart of gold," but was easily influenced by others.

"I think she could have been brainwashed," Carole Mansfield said.

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