OTTAWA (Reuters) - Several former Canadian soldiers plan to join Kurdish forces fighting Islamic State militants in coming weeks, with at least one already in Iraq, Canadian media reported on Friday, bolstering the ranks of foreigners fighting alongside the Kurds.
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation said a half-dozen former armed forces personnel were enlisting, citing unnamed sources. Meanwhile, the National Post newspaper said veterans had formed a group called the First North American Expeditionary Force to help link would-be fighters with Peshmerga units and to provide financial help.
“I got put on this Earth to do one thing,” CBC quoted one of the men, who served in Afghanistan, as saying on condition of anonymity. “I got this fire in me. I still want to soldier on.”
In addition to the Canadian veterans, a Canadian-born immigrant to Israel became the first foreign woman to join Kurds battling Islamic State in Syria earlier this month.
Canadian foreign affairs spokesman Francois Lasalle said: “We are aware of Canadian citizens having joined Kurdish forces.” But he said the government advised against all travel to Syria and Iraq.
Canadian fighter jets joined U.S.-led air strikes against Islamic State in Iraq last month. The decision to join the campaign was followed by fatal attacks on two soldiers in Canada in October that police said were carried out independently by radical recent converts to Islam.
Ian Bradbury, an organizer at the First North American Expeditionary Force was quoted in the National Post as saying the group provided logistical support to one 26-year-old veteran, Dillon Hillier, who flew to northeastern Iraq last week.
“As long as nobody’s being trained here, as long as we’re not forming any militia, it’s all in bounds,” Bradbury was quoted as saying.
It quoted Hillier as saying: “I look at what I‘m doing as no different than when thousands of Canadians went to fight the Germans in World War Two.”
His parents, Randy and Jane Hillier, declined to confirm directly that he was in Iraq, but said in a statement reported by CBC: “There are no words which can adequately describe how proud we are of our son Dillon, including his past service with the Canadian Armed Forces. While we have limited contact with Dillon, we do know he is safe and sound.”
Randy Hillier, the father, is a Progressive Conservative member of the Ontario provincial legislature.
Reporting by Randall Palmer and Leah Schnurr; Editing by Richard Chang; and Peter Galloway