Ashley Johnston, a former Australian soldier who later joined Kurdish forces, is believed to have been killed in an assault on an Islamic State position. However, there is some confusion on the location of where Johnston was killed.
Johnston traveled to the Middle East last year to join the Kurdish YPG “self-protection” forces fighting IS. Previously, he served seven years in the Army Reserve as a rifleman and combat medic. He also posted a Facebook status saying he served on peacekeeping operations, but his time in the Australian Army was “uneventful.”
As reported by the ABC, a Defense spokesman confirmed that they were informed on the death of former Army Reserve member, but for privacy reasons would not comment further.
Jordan Matson, an American fighting with the Kurdish YPG militia, verified in a statement that during an IS attack, Johnston was killed by small arms fire.
Ashley was a good man who never complained and was always positive. He came to defend his country even when his country labelled him a criminal for doing so and before his country was willing to defend itself,” Matson said.
“I consider it an honour to have known and served with him.”
A good friend of Johnston’s expressed her feelings on losing him.
“I have never lost someone so close to my heart. Ashley was such an amazing, generous and loving person who I was so lucky to have met,” she said.
“My heart breaks thinking of his family during this time and I will never forget the times we shared together.”
The Lions of Rojava posted an online tribute to Johnston on their Facebook page which described him as the first Westerner to be martyred fighting for the Kurds.
“Throughout his time in Kurdistan, he had a positive impact on my people’s lives though his humility and kindness to everyone he met. He was taken from us in a heroic assault on ISIS positions in a small village near Shingal,” the statement said.
Despite being the first Australian killed fighting against the Islamist group, about 20 Australians have died fighting for the Islamic State in the Middle East. In a statement, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade stated they were aware of Johnston’s untimely demise.
“The Australian Government’s capacity to confirm reports of deaths in either Syria or Iraq is extremely limited,” the department said in a statement.
“Due to the extremely dangerous security situation, consular assistance is no longer available within Syria. Australians who become involved in overseas conflicts are putting their own lives in mortal danger.
“Any Australians fighting with non-state militia in Syria or Iraq should end their involvement in the conflict now and leave the conflict zone. Australians are strongly advised not to travel to Syria or Iraq; any Australians in either country should leave immediately.”