The HoS reports:
A New Zealander has been killed while fighting in Syria – the first Kiwi casualty in the civil war.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) said it is aware of “unconfirmed reports” a New Zealander has died fighting in the Middle East country.
It did not say when the death happened but confirmed the ministry provided consular assistance.
MFAT refused to release any further details, citing several reasons including privacy and a threat to national security.
The Kiwi’s death was also mentioned in a public statement by Syria’s permanent representative in New York, in which he referred to “criminals, mercenaries” from around the world.
“Thousands of innocent Syrians got killed, thousands were wounded, because of so-called cross border terrorists. They call themselves roundly speaking jihadists, they are not.
“For your information some of the terrorists who got killed came from Burkina Faso, some of them came from New Zealand … this is just to let you understand how absurd the issue we are dealing with.”
I’m not sure if the NZer is an immigrant, or was born here, but either way it is disturbing that one or more NZers are fighting in a civil war in Syria. If they are immigrants, then it suggests we need better targeting to exclude extremists.
A spokesman for the New Zealand-based Syrian Solidarity, Ali Akil, argued the fighters were not terrorists, but were helping to depose the murderous Bashar al-Assad regime. “If there is any terrorism, then it is the terrorism of Assad and his associates,” said Akil.
Banning passports would not stop New Zealanders from travelling to Syria to take up arms, he said.
“If they want to get there, they will get there. I would hope that the New Zealand public does care about what’s happening over there.
“We don’t encourage people to go and fight. They don’t need fighters; they do need weapons and food.”
The Assad regime is loathsome and should go. But some of the opposition groups are little better.