Nicole Mansfield — the American mother who was killed by Syrian government forces — has been accused of fighting with an al-Qaeda affiliated rebel group. Nicole is the first American to be killed in the the country’s devastating civil war.
Meanwhile, her family is baffled as to how an apparently “harmless woman” could have ended up in such a situation. Now an important piece of the puzzle has come to light in the case of Mansfield and her mysterious death in war-torn Syria, as it turns out that the Flint, Michigan, native may have been indoctrinated by a her ex-husband — a religious hardliner with the name Ayman Mohammed Bafil.
Here is what you need to know about the man she married and what he may have to do with her involvement in Syria’s bloody civil war.
1. Mansfield Converted to Islam After Marrying Bafil
Nicole Mansfield was raised Baptist. Family members said Mansfield met an immigrant from the Saudi Arabia several years ago and married him. She then converted to Islam and started wearing the hijab. About two to three years ago, Mansfield went to Dubai “for religious purposes” and came back after her family urged her to come home. Her father had contacted the FBI and asked the U.S. government to revoke her passport three years ago because he felt “something wasn’t right.”
It is not clear if Bafil introduced her to the religion or if she was already interested in becoming a Muslim.
2. Bafil Was Brutally Strict With His First Wife
Bafil wed his first wife in Saudi Arabia in 2002 under an arranged marriage to a Saudi woman. Both were from strict Sunni Muslim families. They moved to Eugene, Oregon, in 2006 so he could study English and then engineering with a grant from the Saudi government, which covered his tuition fees, accommodation and living expenses. However, his wife soon grew unhappy and rebelled at how she was treated. In 2007 they split up and later divorced.
In an interview in the Daily Mail with a friend of his first wife, it was claimed that “He carried on as if they were still in Saudi Arabia. He is very religious and didn’t allow her [his wife] to get cable or to play music. He did not let her drive — even in America — and the only way she could was by stealing his car when he didn’t know.”
Bafil and his first wife have two children, a girl aged 9 and a 5-year-old boy. They reportedly went through a bitter court battle, which ended with her being granted custody, but he is allowed visitation rights when he returns to the U.S. He does so once or twice a year even though he reportedly “hates America”.
3. Marriage May Have Been a “Deal” For Bafil’s Green Card
The Daily Mail reports that in 2012 Bafil married Mansfield in Flint, “having met her on the Internet.” They divorced in August 2011. Mansfield’s grandmother Carole said that she disapproved of the marriage to the Middle Eastern man, who she claimed was living in Toronto at the time. Her relatives have since stated that the marriage was a “deal” under which he would get a green card and paid her cash and gave her a van in exchange. The pair allegedly never lived together and did not even consummate their marriage — but after his papers came through he paid her what he owed. Records show that the couple were married in July 2010 but divorced in August 2011.
4. Bafil “Hated” America
According to a close family friend who was interviewed by the Daily Mail, Ayman Mohammed Bafil Arabia hates the freedoms that people have in the U.S. and thinks anyone who does not believe in Islam is “going to hell.” Bafil is decribed as having “medieval beliefs” and sees a woman as only being fit for cooking, raising children and having sex. According to the friend: “He hated Christianity and people who were not in the same religion as him.”
5. Bafil is Married to an American Muslim Convert
Bafil is now married to Theresa Rutgers and the pair are living in Saudi Arabia, where he works as an engineer for Saudi Airlines and she is a stay-at-home mother. She has told friends she is extremely happy and loves her new life. During a phone conversation with Daily Mail, Theresa, who was not aware that Nicole had died, said: “That’s awful news. I’m so sorry. …Ayman never has a bad thing to say about her. I knew they were married but it was not a bitter divorce.”