Eric Harroun, a 30-year-old US Army veteran said to have been fighting alongside al-Qaeda terrorists against the Assad regime in Syria, was reported early Friday to have been killed there, but later purportedly sent a journalist messages saying he was alive and well.
A video posted by a pro-Assad group showed several bodies including one that resembled Harroun’s, and said he had been “terminated,” US news sites reported. The video was posted on YouTube early Friday under the headline: “Terrorists, including American Extremist ‘Eric Harroun’, Have Been Terminated,” the website AOL Defense reported, saying it would not publish the video because it was too graphic. The claim of Harroun’s death was picked up by several news outlets, with comments from the Pentagon and his family that they had no information.
Later Friday, however, AOL Defense said it had received a message from Harroun, or someone using his Facebook account, saying he was alive and fighting with the Free Syrian Army, not the al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra. A second message read, “Lol I was reported Dead! Show me the link. I never joined Al Nusra !!! I am FSA get it right.”
Harroun had become known as “the American” and had featured in several videos fighting alongside anti-regime forces.
His father Darryl told Fox News last week, “I know one day I’m going to get a message from over there, telling me my son is dead.”
In a late January clip, a man who was apparently Harroun threatened to kill Syrian President Bashar Assad whether or not he abdicates.
“Bashar Assad, your days are numbered,” he said. “You are going down in flames. You should just quit now, while you can, and leave. You are going to die, no matter what. Where you go we will find you and kill you. Do you understand?”
In a February clip, he and another fighter celebrate the apparent downing of a regime helicopter. “Yes, we smoked the mother fuckers, didn’t we,” the English-speaker says with a smile. “Hell, yeah. We smoked about – I don’t know – ten, twenty,” he finishes.
It is not clear how many Americans are fighting in the civil war against Assad, but the speaker in the video would not be the only one fighting alongside the Free Syrian Army. Matthew VanDyke, a self-proclaimed freedom fighter, participated in the uprising against Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, then fought in Syria before returning to the United States.
The BBC also reported on two Syrian-American brothers who returned to Syria to fight against the Assad regime.