Syria: Former Santa Cruz man killed fighting ISIS

Former Santa Cruz man killed fighting...

CBS, News - Two American men have been killed fighting against Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants as the terror group clings to its last urban stronghold, the terror group's de-facto capital city of Raqqa in Syria.

One of the most potent forces battling ISIS on the ground in Syria -- with backing from the U.S.-led military coalition -- is the Kurdish militia known as the YPG. Volunteers with varying motives from around the world have joined battle-hardened YPG fighters during the last three years, often paying with their lives.

In a statement posted online this week, the YPG identified two U.S. nationals, both men, who it said were killed in the battle to retake Raqqa from ISIS.

According to the Associated Press, 28-year-old, Robert Grodt was from Santa Cruz. Grodt was also a former "Occupy Wall Street" activist. He appeared in a YPG YouTube video only two weeks earlier, explaining why he left his family and friends in New York to join the fight against ISIS.

He said he was motivated to fight for the Kurdish "revolution" by a "buddy" who had joined in 2016. Like all foreign fighters who join the YPG, Grodt, adopted a Kurdish moniker, calling himself Demhat Goldman.

"I talked with my partner and my family, and I'm like, I'm gonna go out to Syria. This is something I care about," the California native said in the video, holding a rifle in one hand. He said he couldn't sit idle after, "seeing a real chance to take a hand in something that's really important for the region."

The Kurdish force said Grodt was killed in an ambush by ISIS militants on July 6, in a Raqqa suburb.

The YPG said the other slain U.S. national was Nicholas Warden, 29, who had adopted the Kurdish name Rodî Deysie. According to the statement posted by the YPG, he was killed on July 5, also fighting around Raqqa.

The two men, described as "martyrs" by the YPG, are not the first Americans to perish alongside Kurdish forces in the ISIS fight.


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