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Ex-Canadian Soldier Fires Assault Rifle at Islamic State in Video

Afghan War veteran Dillon Hillier is among a growing group of Canadians and foreigners joining Kurdish fighters battling militants in Iraq and Syria.
Photo via Dillon R Hillier/Facebook.

This piece originally appeared on VICE Canada.

VICE Canada has obtained exclusive footage of ex-Canadian Forces soldier Dillon Hillier — a man who is not only the son of a conservative member of provincial parliament in Ontario, but a veteran of the Afghan War — attacking Islamic State forces in Kurdish Iraq.

In the video, shot using a GoPro camera, Hillier is seen, from his point of view, firing a number of rounds at Islamic State forces. He raises what appears to be an M16 assault rifle over a trench, letting off a burst of rounds in the direction of enemy lines.

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In another video, Hillier bandages a fellow Peshmerga fighter with a gunshot wound on his head after Islamic State forces ambushed their unit.

"That's all I can do for him right now," screams Hillier as he explains to non-English-speaking Peshmerga fighters how to bandage the Kurdish soldier's head.

"Like this, like this!" he yells. "Fuck! He got hit in the face. You're going to be alright man, tell him he's going to be alright!"

According to Hillier, the videos were shot during operations aimed at liberating "Tal al-Ward from the clutches of evil."

"I accomplished more good in those 20 hours than the previous 26 years of my life," he said. "I dragged a man who had been shot in the face to safety and patched him while many others stood around not doing anything."

Hillier recently made headlines after it was  revealed in the _National Post _he had hopped on a flight from Alberta to join Kurdish forces fighting the Islamic State.

But Hillier isn't alone when it comes to veterans looking for a combat role in Iraq.

The fledgling 1st North American Expeditionary Force — a group of ex-soldiers led by a Canadian veteran — is currently raising a military unit intent on helping Kurdish Peshmerga defend itself against Islamic State forces. The group is entirely composed of volunteers with combat experience as professional soldiers, and is not a private military contractor.

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In one Facebook post, Hillier brandishes his rifle in one hand, while linking arms with a Kurdish fighter. The 26-year old was apparently inspired to protect Kurdish civilians against the reported atrocities of the Islamic State — a group known for perpetrating mass decapitations and the systematic rape of ethnic Yezidi women.

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Several other Canadian citizens have also travelled to Syria and Iraq of their own volition to join foreign paramilitary organizations as the conflict escalates. Gill Rosenberg, an ex-IDF soldier and British Columbia native, recently became the first woman to join Kurdish YPG forces in the battle against the Islamic State in Kobane.

Reports emerged yesterday that Rosenberg had been kidnapped by the Sunni Muslim group, but a YPG source told VICE Canada that the Islamic state has not captured Rosenberg.

Canadian law allows citizen soldiers to operate as combatants with sanctioned entities such as the Iraqi Kurdish forces known as the Peshmerga. But joining designated terrorist organizations such as al Qaeda and the Kurdish PKK (another operator in the region listed as a terrorist group by the Canadian government) is illegal under Canadian law.

The rise of western volunteers keen to take on the Islamic State is a growing phenomenon in Iraqi Kurdistan. Along with some members of Dutch biker gangs, who have also joined the battle, professional soldiers like Hillier will undoubtedly be seen by Peshmerga command as serious assets in battling heavily-armed Islamic State forces.

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Hillier's involvement in the conflict comes on the heels of expanded bombings by Canadian fighter jets in Iraq. Active CF-18 "sorties" have dropped smart bombs and precision missiles on Islamic State targets, while Canadian Special Forces operators have been training Kurdish soldiers in the region.

On the flip side, Canadians are also among a growing contingent of foreign recruits joining jihadist groups in the region. The Canadian Security and Intelligence Service said more than 30 citizens are operating with terrorist organizations in Iraq and Syria, some in the same region as Hillier.

One fighter, known by the nom de guerre Abu Usamah, previously told VICE, "there are entire Kataibs (brigades) of English speakers all over Syria."

While we know a glut of Canadian terrorist recruits have joined the ranks of the Islamic State, the growing tide of professional Canadian soldiers counteracting those jihadists adds an interesting twist to the evolving conflict: it might be a war in Iraq, but it's taking on the tinge of a Western civil war among expat combatants.

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Follow Ben Makuch on Twitter: @bmakuch