Slain American Jihadists Had a Twin Cities Connection

Thursday, 28 Aug 2014 12:05 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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A second Minneapolis man, believed to have become radicalized in the United States before traveling overseas to join with jihadist extremists, apparently died alongside Douglas McAuthur McCain in Syria, leaving questions about how they and other Americans are ending up far from home fighting with terrorists.

Last week, Abdirahmaan Muhumed, 29, reportedly died in the same battle as McCain, who also grew up in Minneapolis, The Daily Mail reported Thursday. While two sources confirmed his identity and his family has received a photo of his body, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the United States has not been able to independently confirm his death.

Earlier this year, Muhumed, along with several other Somali-Americans from the Twin Cities, was said to have been lured by the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, through "jihadi cool" rap videos, stories of revolution, and the glories of fighting battles toward creating an Islamic caliphate in the Middle East.

Muhumed had been married three times and was the father of nine children, according to the Mail.

Another Minnesota man, Troy Kastigar, was also killed in overseas jihadist battles, although a few years ago in a different war zone. Kastigar and McCain were friends from the same high school class who for the most part were described as two pals whose lives were going nowhere, The Daily Beast reported.

McCain and Kastigar, born just two months apart in 1981, both went to the same high school in Minneapolis and were photographed for the yearbook standing side by side, even lived together for a period of time in the Kastigar house with his single mother and younger brother.

And both had the same kind of minor problems with the law and sometimes played basketball with young Somali-American men at the local recreation center.

Kastigar, in November 2008, told his mother he was going to Kenya, where he planned to study the Koran, but instead, the 28-year-old went to Somalia, where he was killed with a friend from back home, Mohamoud Hassan, in September 2009.

By then, McCain had moved to San Diego and embraced Islam, but his co-workers say they don't remember that he was especially religious.

He'd hoped to become a rapper, and went to Sweden in hopes of becoming a star, but when that didn't happen, he became more religious and eventually started using his old friend Kastigar's photo as his own on Facebook in memory of the dead jihadist.

Last summer, video of Kastigar was included in a recruiting video, "Minnesota's Martyrs: The Path to Paradise," in which he gushed about the glories of being a jihadist and called it the "real Disneyland."

And as McCain's radicalism progressed, he began following members of ISIS on Twitter and then traveled to Turkey, where his family thought he'd remained.

But this past weekend, McCain was killed when sent out on a mission against other Muslims, like Kastigar was a few years before.

So far, though, Muhumed and McCain are believed to have been the only two Americans killed fighting for ISIS. A third died in a suicide bombing in Syria, but was with Al Nusra Front, not ISIS.

Muhumed on Jan. 2 announced on Facebook that he was giving up his "worldly life for allah," The Daily Mail reported, and the next day posted a photo of himself with a Koran in one hand and a rifle in the other, and stated ISIS was trying to bring back the caliphate and "Allah loves those who fight for his cause."

And about four days before he left for Syria, he told his friends he was going to London, leaving them surprised that he went to Syria instead.

"Jihad cool" is identified by a recent Congressional Research Service report as a factor pushing Americans to take up arms overseas, and online activity can be a tool to "prod an individual towards violence."

McCain's family said they knew he has strong beliefs, but did not think he would support ISIS, and a former neighbor described him as having been "a good kid" who somebody "must have persuaded."

Related Stories:
Lindsey Graham: Stop ISIS or Watch More Americans Join Group
Report: Hundreds of Americans May Be Fighting for ISIS


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