A 22-year-old man from Drogheda who earlier this year joined rebels battling to oust Syrian president Bashar al-Assad has been killed by regime forces in the northern province of Idlib.
Hudhaifa ElSayed was shot dead on Tuesday during a skirmish between rebels and forces loyal to Assad. Syrian state media reported he had been killed but the exact circumstances surrounding his death remain unclear. He was one of an estimated 10-20 men from Ireland who have joined the Syrian uprising as rebels.
Mr ElSayed was born in Egypt but his family moved to Ireland when he was a young boy after his surgeon father, Abdelbaset, secured a job here. He attended St Mary's diocesan school in Drogheda before working as a coach and trainer. Mr ElSayed, a naturalised Irish citizen, was well-known within the Muslim community for his involvement in youth projects.
He and other men from Ireland joined the Syrian rebels as part of Liwa al-Umma, a brigade founded by a Libyan-Irish man named Mehdi al-Harati, who also commanded a rebel unit during the Libyan revolution last year.
Mr ElSayed told The Irish Times in Idlib in July that he was driven to join the Syrian uprising out of idealism. "I see my life as being about three things: searching for the truth, defending the weak against injustice and the oppressors, and helping to build peace in the world," he said. "The battle here in Syria combines all three."
Irish-born Housam Najjair, who also fought with Liwa al-Umma, paid tribute to Mr ElSayed. "He died a brave man just the way he lived. It is never easy for a parent to lose their child. The sooner Bashar is removed from power the sooner this bloodshed will stop."
Mr ElSayed's friends flooded Facebook pages with tributes yesterday. "Hudhaifa left us for a great purpose. He was a man with a message. And I hope his legacy continues with us. Driven by a passion to make an impact on the world. He was a dreamer. A perfectionist. A friend," wrote one.
Mourners gathered at the Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland in Clonskeagh, Dublin last night to offer condolences to the ElSayed family.