(BURTON, Mich.) — The daughter of an American woman killed in a firefight in Syria denied that her mother was a “terrorist” and said she was a regular American woman “who was misguided.”
The body of Nicole Lynn Mansfield, a Muslim convert from Flint, Mich., was recovered this week following fighting near the rebellious Syrian city of Idlib. The Syrian government labeled her a terrorist.
Mansfield, 33, is the first American to be killed in the conflict. Her body was found alongside a British national, U.K. authorities confirmed.
According to Syrian state media, at the time of her death Mansfield was wearing a head scarf and found with a Michigan driver’s license and U.S. passport on her. Photographs of those documents were released by the Syrian regime.
The Mansfield family told ABC News that they did not know she had traveled to Syria. Her aunt, Monica Mansfield, believed she was visiting South Africa.
Mansfield’s daughter, Triana Lynn Mansfield, 18, posted a defense of her mother on her Facebook page.
“My mother was NOT a terrorist. She went there for a reason that is unknown. But believe this-SHE WAS FORCED TO STAY. She told me she would be back in a week,” the daughter wrote.
“She was just a regular american woman who was misguided by the people who just wanted to use her because shes american. THEY ARE THE ONES WHO KILLED MY MOTHER! THE SYRIAN GOVERNMENT! Not because she was a terrorist, but because she was american,” Triana Mansfield wrote.
Nicole Mansfield’s grandmother, Carol Mansfield, told ABC News, “Whatever she was doing, it didn’t change the fact that I will always have love in my heart for her.”
Mansfield had previously been to the Middle East, telling family members in 2009 or 2010 that she was going to the Arab emirate Dubai to “learn the culture” and attend college, according to Monica Mansfield. She returned to the U.S. just six weeks later.
When she left for Dubai, her father Gregory Mansfield contacted the FBI to say he was worried about his daughter’s wellbeing, the aunt said. Upon her return to the U.S., she was met and questioned by Homeland Security officials at the Atlanta airport, Monica Mansfield said.
After returning home, Mansfield worked as a home health care aide and at a Arab-owned restaurant in Dearborn, Mich.
Mansfield had married an Arab man in 2008, whom her family never met. Her aunt believes the couple met at a mosque and divorced soon after when the man obtained a green card. Following the divorce, Mansfield continued to wear a head scarf and practice Islam.
Mansfield’s father “spoke to the State Department in the afternoon yesterday. He was in denial,” the grandmother said.
Carol Mansfield said she last saw her granddaughter in December and believed she went to Syria to help “settle the problems of the world.” She added that the Mansfield family “are true blooded Americans.”
Syria is embroiled in a bloody civil war, pitting the regime of President Bashar al Assad against a loose-knit network of rebels, some of whom have been tied to foreign terror groups including al Qaeda.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Arwa Damon, Waffa Munayyer and Bryony Jones, CNN
Chris Williams and Jason Hanna, CNN
Emanuella Grinberg, CNN
Dave Gilbert, CNN