Cdn killed fighting ISIL died from head injury: mother

An Ontario woman whose son was killed secretly fighting against Islamic State militants in northern Syria last year says she was devastated to finally learn the details of his death.

Tina Martino says an autopsy report she received last week concluded her 24-year-old son, Nazzareno Tassone, died from a blow to the head, not a gunshot wound as she had previously been told.

Martino says the autopsy, which was conducted in northern Iraq, also found her son had broken bones, cigarette burns to his body and face and marks that suggested he had been bound.

After days spent believing her son had been tortured, Martino says she learned Tuesday those injuries were incurred after his death.

Tassone was killed on Dec. 21 in the city of Raqqa while fighting militants associated with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, known as ISIS or ISIL.

Months before, Tassone had told his family that he was going to Iraq to teach English, but he secretly slipped into Syria to join forces with a U.S.-backed Kurdish group known as the YPG.

The young man’s family learned of his death in early January after receiving a letter from the group. The letter also said Tassone’s body had been taken by ISIL militants. His body was recovered last month.

The autopsy report initially confused the family, because it described Tassone as six feet three inches tall, in his 30s and with blond hair, when in fact he was five feet 10 inches tall, several years younger and had brown hair, his mother said.

That gave the family hope that it was about a different man, she said.

“It was the first time in five months of not having him home that anger… overpowered most of the emotional crying,” Martino said.

“There was also a lot of hoping and praying that it wasn’t him,” she said.

Dental records eventually confirmed the report had correctly identified Tassone, however, she said.

Still, the report leaves many questions unanswered about Tassone’s fate, his mother said. “Nobody’s saying what they think happened,” she said.

Martino said her son’s body could be flown back to Canada as early as this weekend, though she wouldn’t be surprised if they encountered other delays.

Tassone’s body would arrive in Toronto and be brought to Niagara Falls, Ont., in a repatriation ceremony, then laid to rest there, she said.

The family had planned a memorial service last month but then decided to wait for the return of his body.

Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press

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