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Tribute to former Yorkshire Marine killed fighting IS

A former US soldier who said he fought next to an ex-Royal Marine reported to be killed while fighting with Kurdish forces against Islamic State militants has paid tribute to his former comrade.

Former US soldier Jordan Matson posted a picture he says is ex-Royal Marine Konstandions Erik Sculfield Credit: Facebook/Jordan Matson

Posting on Facebook, Jordan Matson said he was "honoured" to have fought next to Konstandions Erik Scurfield, praising his discipline and dedication.

We were together from his first day here and you couldn't ask for a more disciplined warrior.

"Kosta as we call him was from the United Kingdom and was born a Greek citizen. He served both in the Greek army and as a British Royal Marine commando up until he came here. He served with me in Jezza and Shengal.

"Kosta volunteered for every attack and guard duty opportunity. He wanted nothing more than to bring the fight to the enemy.

"I'm going to carry on your legacy brother, I will never forget you. I love you man.

"Save me a place up there big guy."

– Jordan Matson

100 Westerners believed to be fighting Islamic State

Around 100 people from Western countries - including a number of Britons - are believed to have gone to Syria to join Kurdish forces battling against Islamic State militants.

The figures come as it emerged ex-Royal Marine Konstandinos Erik Scurfield, from Barnsley, has become the first Brit to be killed in the fight against the violent terror group.

Last month, a 19-year-old soldier from the UK, based in Cyprus, was returned to his unit after joining the Kurdish peshmerga, telling family "these guys need our help".

And in December, it was reported that two former British soldiers had also joined the operation against Islamic State, saying they had been "compelled" to help after the murder of aid worker Alan Henning.

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Tribute to Konstandinos from Kurdish news organisation

The organisation Kurdish Question, which provides pro-Kurdish news and political analysis, has released a statement.

"Kurdish Question has tonight learnt of the loss of the first YPG volunteer from the UK, Konstandinos Erik Scurfield, nom de guerre Kemal.

"Kurdish Question can confirm that the family of Konstandinos has been informed of the loss of their son and we would like to pay our deepest respects and honour the memory of this brave young man who travelled to Rojava to fight ISIS with the Kurdish forces of the YPG.

"We can confirm that Konstandinos Erik Scurfield died in battle, probably in NE Syria/Rojava although the full details are yet to be announced by YPG.

"The YPG do have the body of Konstandinos. When we messaged Jordan Matson today if he can confirm the martyrdom of a UK volunteer, he simply replied,

"Yes, I am here with his body!"

"Konstandinos fell in combat with ISIS yesterday, that much we think we know. But more details will be forthcoming from YPG soon.

"To all of the family, friends and comrades in arms of Konstandinos we pay our deepest respect and will honour his memory as a brave fighter for justice."

– Kurdish Question

First Briton killed fighting IS in Syria "is from Barnsley"

A former Royal Marine has become the first Briton to be killed while fighting against Islamic State in Syria, according to reports.

He has been named by the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) as Konstandinos Erik Scurfield, from Barnsley.

"We are aware of reports of the death of a British national in Syria.

"The UK has advised for some time against all travel to Syria, where all UK consular services are suspended.

"As we do not have any representation in Syria, it is extremely difficult to get any confirmation of deaths or injuries and our options for supporting British nationals there are extremely limited."

– The Foreign Office

A statement on the Kurdish Question website read: "We can confirm that Konstandinos Erik Scurfield died in battle, probably in Hasakah although thefull details are yet to be announced by YPG."

It said it had contacted Jordan Matson of the YPG who, when asked to confirm the death of a UK volunteer, said: "Yes, I am here with his body."

"Because of potential language issues I volunteered to inform the family of his death, which I did and spoke to his mother on behalf of the YPG."

– Mark Campbell Kurdish issues activist

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PCC: Rotherham 'desperately' needs to turn a corner

The Police and Crime Commissioner for South Yorkshire, Dr Alan Billings, says that he welcomes the Prime Minister's new initiatives for tackling child sexual exploitation.

However he goes on to say Rotherham 'desperately' needs to turn a corner - something which only adequate funding can achieve:

Dr Alan Billings Credit: Press Association

I applaud the Prime Minister's initiative. It will help raise awareness of the continued existence of child sexual exploitation across the country.

I became Police and Crime Commissioner as a result of child sexual exploitation issues and it is a top priority for me. Therefore, I welcome any new measures that will help to strengthen the systems in place to protect children and young people from sexual exploitation and to bring more offenders to justice. I will do whatever I can to enable South Yorkshire take advantage of any new funding being offered.

We should not forget, however, the measures that have already been taken.

For South Yorkshire Police I have committed 62 additional staff to work in the unit that deals with child sexual exploitation. This is a big commitment and comes on top of other posts agreed last year. It would be helpful if the government recognised this by funding these posts otherwise, with big reductions in the police grant this year, resources will have to be diverted from elsewhere in the police budget to pay for them.

I have also formed a victims and survivors panel as a result of which we are building a picture from their perspective of how policing can be improved if they are to be helped sensitively and effectively.

We are beginning to see in South Yorkshire many more people having confidence to come forward and speak to the police – though that remains a difficult journey for many to take.

The government needs to act speedily, however. There are organisations in Rotherham that work with victims and survivors that are struggling to keep going and need funding now.

We desperately need to turn a corner in Rotherham and that can happen if we have in place adequate funding, the right attitudes on the part of professionals and a willingness to listen to victims and survivors and learn from them. I look forward to working with the new Commissioner for Rotherham, Sir Derek Myers.

– Dr Alan Billings

Solicitor: This is just the beginning of a war on CSE

David Greenwood, a solicitor who represents 39 victims of child sexual exploitation in Rotherham, said:

This is not just a problem for Rotherham.

Many towns and cities have discovered painful truths that have been ignored by the police and councils.

I have worked closely with those affected by CSE for a number of years. I welcome the Government's initiatives to prioritise CSE as a national threat, to provide targeted support for survivors, ensure that authorities work together more effectively, and to impose criminal sanctions for professionals' failures to protect children.

This is just the beginning of a war against exploiters. There are still many stories to emerge and abusers are still walking the streets. Without sustained effort, a generation of children are at risk of having their lives ruined.

– David Greenwood

South Yorkshire Police: "Significant increase" in officers investigating CSE allegations

South Yorkshire Police say the level of scrutiny around their role in the reported 1,400 cases of child sexual exploitation uncovered in the Jay Report last August is 'completely understandable'.

The force say there has been a "significant increase" in the number of officers investigating child sexual exploitation cases:

There has been a high level of scrutiny around the way South Yorkshire Police has handled child sexual exploitation in the past and we completely understand and accept this needs to take place.

This scrutiny includes an ongoing independent investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), inspections by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) and being held to account by the South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner, Dr Alan Billings.

There has been a significant increase in the number of police officers and staff dedicated to tackling child sexual exploitation and we are absolutely committed to achieving justice, stopping the harm and preventing future offending.

However, we accept more needs to be done and we continue to invest in further training to ensure we continue to improve our service to victims and survivors of child sexual exploitation.

Between April 1, 2014 and December 31, 2014, the force received reports of 213 child sexual exploitation-related offences.

Following thorough investigations, 45 people were charged or summoned to court in connection with 49 of those offences.

A number of complex investigations are still ongoing into many of those offences.

– South Yorkshire Police
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