Briton Jac Holmes died in Syria 'helping underdog', says mother

Media caption,
Angie Blannin remembers her son Jac Holmes, who died fighting with the YPG in Syria

A British man who died while fighting so-called Islamic State (IS) in Syria liked "helping the underdog", his mother has said ahead of his repatriation.

Sniper Jac Holmes, from Bournemouth, had been clearing landmines in Raqqa when he was killed in October.

He had been fighting with Kurdish militia the YPG since 2015.

His mother Angie Blannin described him as "totally fearless" and said she did not oppose his killing of IS fighters.

The body of the 24-year-old, along with that of Portsmouth man Oliver Hall - who was also killed while fighting against IS - is due to arrive back in the UK on Wednesday.

Image source, PA
Image caption,
The 24-year-old sniper had been fighting with Kurdish militia the YPG since 2015

Ms Blannin, from Dover, Kent, said her son originally told her he was going to Syria to carry out "humanitarian work".

After he was smuggled over the border and taken to a safe house she admitted thinking: "He's never going to last."

"I thought, he'll do the six months, he'll come back and that will be it," she told the BBC.

"He'll have had enough by then because the sort of conditions that he was living in."

As a former IT worker Mr Holmes had no prior military training, but he became one of the longest-serving foreign volunteers in the conflict.

Media caption,
Jac Holmes told the BBC why he went to fight IS, in an interview recorded weeks before he was killed

He travelled to fight with the Kurds three times and fought in operations to push IS out of key towns and villages including Tel Hamis, Manbij, Tabqa and Raqqa.

Ms Blannin says she never knew if he killed anyone. "He never talked about it, and I never asked him, it was one of those unspoken things," she said.

"I think Jac had, and always has had, a sense of helping the underdog - helping people - and he felt strongly about this.

"Morally, I don't have an issue if he's killed any Daesh [IS] fighters - not at all.

"I think if you speak to most people on the street they would say the same. Yes legally there is a grey area, but such is life."

Image source, Facebook
Image caption,
During the battle for the IS stronghold of Raqqa, Mr Holmes became part of a four-man sniper unit

Ms Blannin said she felt a "massive sense of relief" when Raqqa was liberated and said Mr Holmes had been planning to return home.

"This was the point that he wanted to get to and then, literally, that day he was going to leave.

"I was devastated beyond belief."

She paid tribute to her "cheeky lad who took this cause and kind of went with it".

"He did have a real sense of doing something for the greater good."

Mr Holmes was one of a number of British volunteers who travelled to fight against IS with the Kurds during the Syrian conflict.

The Home Office has warned against all travel to Syria.

Image source, Facebook
Image caption,
Mr Holmes (far left) shared pictures and videos of his experiences in Syria on Facebook