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Body of American killed fighting ISIS handed over to family

BEIRUT -- The body of an American who died fighting with Kurdish forces against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in Syria was handed over on Thursday to his family at a Turkish border crossing, a Kurdish official said.

Hundreds of people turned up in the Kurdish town of Kobani to bid farewell to Keith Broomfield before his body was handed over to family at the Mursitpinar gate, said Idriss Naasan.

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Broomfield, from Massachusetts, died on June 3 in battle in a Syrian village near Kobani, making him likely the first U.S. citizen to die fighting alongside Kurds against ISIS.

He had joined the People's Protection Units known as the YPG on Feb. 24 under the nom de guerre Gelhat Rumet. The YPG are the main Kurdish guerrilla battling the Islamic State group in Syria.

The U.S. Department of State confirmed Broomfield's death Wednesday but declined to provide any details about the circumstances.

It was not immediately clear who from Broomfield's family was there to receive his body on the Turkish side Thursday. Kurds in Turkey lined the road, waving flags and applauding as the convoy carrying the body drove by.

CBS Boston reported that Broomfield's loved ones gathered at a family business next door to their Bolton, Mass. home on Wednesday and others arrived with flowers.

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The fight against ISIS has attracted dozens of Westerners, including Iraq war veterans who have made their way back to the Middle East to join Kurdish fighters, who have been most successful against the extremist group.

Many are spurred on by Kurdish social media campaigners and a sense of duty rooted in the 2003 U.S.-led military invasion of Iraq, where ISIS fighters recently have rolled back gains U.S. troops had made.

The State Department official told CBS News correspondent Margaret Brennan that the U.S. government does not support American citizens traveling to the region to fight with any group.

Previously, a British citizen, an Australian and a German woman were killed fighting with the Kurds.

The YPG on Thursday posted a video that showed Broomfield saying he was in Syria "to do what I can to help Kurdistan. With everything that's been going on, it seems like the right thing to do."

"I just want to help the cause anyway I can," he said.

A YPG statement posted on the group's website said he had a great desire to learn the Kurdish language and understand Kurdish ideology

Backed by U.S.-led coalition airstrikes, Kurdish YPG fighters in Syria have successfully pushed back ISIS militants from Kobani and scores of nearby villages. More recently, they have closed in on the Islamic State-held town of Tal Abyad, near the Turkish border. The town is the Islamic State group's main access point to Turkey from Raqqa, the group's de facto capital in Syria.

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