American Jihadi Killed in Syria: Douglas McAuthur McCain

Tuesday, 26 Aug 2014 07:37 PM

By Greg Richter

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An American convert to Islam who had gone to Syria to fight with the Islamic State, also called ISIS, was killed over the weekend, his uncle told CNN.

The body and passport of Douglas McAuthur McCain, 33, originally of San Diego, California, was discovered by members of the Free Syrian Army after he was killed in a firefight with the group. NBC News  reports it has seen a photo of McCain's passport and his body with a neck tattoo that matches photos of him posted on Facebook.

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Senior White House officials told NBC they were aware of McCain's death, although USA Today reported that the State Department declined to confirm he had been killed.

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"There's a process that needs to be gone through before any confirmation can be made, and I won't have any more information at this time," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

McCain had been on a U.S. watch list of potential terrorism suspects, American officials said. If he had tried to re-enter the country, he would have almost certainly faced an extra level of scrutiny before boarding any commercial airliner bound for the United States, officials told The New York Times.

"We were aware of U.S. Citizen Douglas McAuthur McCain's presence in Syria and can confirm his death," U.S. National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said in a statement.

"We continue to use every tool we possess to disrupt and dissuade individuals from traveling abroad for violent jihad and to track and engage those who return," Hayden said.

Though he was raised Christian, McCain said in social media posts he "reverted" to Islam about 10 years ago. He called himself "Duale ThaslaveofAllah" on Facebook.

High-school friends remembered him as an avid basketball player and "goofball." His conversion to Islam did not alarm his family a decade ago, but his online posts became more sympathetic of jihadist groups in recent years.

He had two minor run-ins with the law after moving to the Twin Cities area of Minneapolis, according to NBC. He was charged with disorderly conduct in 2000 and with obstruction in 2006.

McCain's uncle, Ken McCain, told CNN that his nephew's decision to become a jihadi "devastated" his family, who is "just as surprised as the country."

According to many definitions, a jihadist or jihadi is an Islamic militant, or someone who is involved in a violent holy war against the enemies of Islam. Other scholars disagree, though many seem to acknowledge that a jihad includes both an internal and external struggle in the way of Allah.

McCain's Twitter account shows an evolution from an average young man into a committed militant jihadi.

"I reverted to Islam 10 years ago and I must say In sha Allah I will never look back the best thing that ever happen to me," he posted on Twitter in May.

On April 3, McCain retweeted the full English translation of the speech of Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, the spokesman for the Islamic State.

And in June, McCain wrote to an alleged Islamic State fighter on Twitter, according to NBC. By then, he had apparently moved to Turkey.

"I will be joining you guys soon," he wrote. He also asked about fighters in "r town" — what NBC described as an apparent reference to Raqqa, the militants' Syrian stronghold.

"I'm with the brothers now," he tweeted.

McCain was likely among the dozens of U.S. citizens that Attorney General Eric Holder said in July were included in a cohort of roughly 7,000 foreign fighters that U.S. intelligence agencies estimate to be operating in Syria, out of roughly 23,000 violent extremists.

Holder said federal prosecutors had opened fewer than 100 investigations into American citizens who may have traveled to Syria or Iraq to fight.

His death comes after a 22-year-old man from Florida carried out a suicide bombing in Syria's Idlib province in May. Later, a Denver woman was arrested in July on suspicion of trying to fly to Syria to support insurgents, and two men in Texas were taken into custody on similar charges in June.

One of the Texas men was charged with "attempting to provide material support to terrorists," a law that Holder urged other countries to copy as vital to counter terrorism efforts.

On Tuesday, the United States was moving ahead with surveillance flights over Syria to identify targets for a potential presidential order to launch airstrikes against Islamic State targets in what would be a direct U.S. military intervention into a country embroiled in a three-year civil war.

"America does not forget. Our reach is long. We are patient. Justice will be done," President Barack Obama told veterans gathered at a convention of the American Legion in Charlotte, North Carolina. He was referring specifically to the killers of American journalist James Foley.

Obama, who ordered airstrikes against the militant group in Iraq and is considering them for Syria, said he would do whatever is necessary to go after those who harm Americans.

"Rooting out a cancer like ISIL won't be easy and it won't be quick," he said. ISIL is another acronym used for ISIS or the Islamic State.

Launching airstrikes into Syria would add an unpredictable element to a civil war that Obama has taken great pains to steer clear of a year after stepping back from attacking the government of Syrian President Bashir Assad for using chemical weapons on his own people.

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