'I got shot fighting IS in Syria, now I want to come home' - Jac, 22

Jack

A 22-year-old British IT worker wounded whilst fighting in Iraq and Syria says he wants to come home.

Jac Holmes joined a unit fighting so-called Islamic State online, and travelled to join a group called the "Lions of Rojava".

He was shot in the arm whilst fighting to take control of a village, and says he's lucky it was only a flesh-wound.

Jac now says he wants to return to the UK, but it's difficult for Westerners fighting in Syria and Iraq to return.

The Government says anyone fighting in Syria is likely to be arrested when they go back to the UK. If they are deemed to have taken part in acts of terrorism, they could be jailed.

The Home Office won't comment specifically on whether Jac will face charges if and when he returns home, but tells Newsbeat in a statement: "A decision on whether to prosecute will be taken by the police and Crown Prosecution Service on a case by case basis."

Jack and fighter

Jac is unphased: "For Rojava I'm done. I came close to death at least two times, and that was enough. And the small amount of fighting I did get into - it was quite intense.

"So I'm going to go and relax in northern Iraq for a bit, then probably go back to England for a little while, and then potentially come back out to northern Iraq and see [what's going on]."

He adds: "I'm really looking forward to it at the moment. Everything. Seeing friends, going down the shop, everything that's in England. I can't wait to sit down at my computer and waste away."

Jack

Jac was wounded earlier in the year and has since spent several weeks recovering. However, when he returned to the front lines, he found his unit had moved on without him.

"A couple of rounds where going down the street and then I took a stray round in the arm. I felt a bit of a ping in the arm and I thought it was somebody else's shell ejecting out of their gun," he says.

"I was like 'ow' and then I saw my arm was covered in blood."

Jac is among hundreds of Westerners thought to have travelled to fight IS. Many fight with YPG or Kurdish Protection Units.

The Kurds are an ethnic group who want their own state in the region. Hundreds of their fighters have been killed.

YPG fighter

But Jac says he was well aware of the risks before travelling out to fight.

"I was studying the whole Syrian civil war on the internet for six months or more, just looking at what was going on every day."

"I thought I want to get over there and be involved, and then it was a case of looking at the groups in the region - which ones aren't terrorists, which ones are good guys who won't sell me off."

He says he was repeatedly questioned by police in the UK and turned away by police in Iraq: "They just said we're not going to let you in, we're going to send you back to England."

"So they forced me to pay for a flight home. They said I'd go to jail otherwise."

"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. Those who travel abroad in order to participate in conflicts may be committing criminal or terrorism offences and could face prosecution when they return to the UK. A decision on whether to prosecute will be taken by the police and Crown Prosecution Service on a case by case basis. The best way to help the people in Iraq and Syria is to donate to registered charities that have ongoing relief operations."
Home Office statement on returning fighters.

Eventually, he managed to make his way to Syria. The group he is with, Lions of Rojava, are allied with other Kurdish groups, but want their own state in northern Syria.

Critics say they are extremists, and Jac himself claims some of the westerners he was fighting with had problems: "It's a wide spectrum of people. Some of them are really professional ex military guys.

"Then there's other people who, like me, had no experience beforehand. But unlike me they're not mentally sane.

"There're a lot of crazy people who come out here, basically.

"There was one guy who was just going around all the abandoned buildings taking every pill and medication he could find."

Jac also claims some volunteers mistreated the bodies of dead IS fighters.

Now, he worries how he'll cope returning home.

"If I was going to stay there for a long period of time it would definitely be strange," he says.

"It's just like the British soldiers coming back from Afghanistan, trying to adjust from that really intense lifestyle to going back to being a civilian in England, I think the adjustment's probably really hard."

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