CBS News – An American citizen died in Syria over the weekend amid ongoing fears that Americans and other Westerners were heading to the region to join up with the extremist militant group ISIS.
CBS station WCCO in Minnesota confirmed the death of Douglas McArthur McCain, 33, who grew up in the state. He had most recently lived in San Diego. The exact circumstances of his death were unclear.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki wouldn’t confirm McCain’s death but said that U.S. officials are in contact with the family in providing consular assistance.
“As you know there is typically a process that has to be gone through before any confirmation can be made and certainly, out of respect for the family, we won’t be adding any more comment at this time,” she said.
A cousin, Kenyata McCain told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that McCain’s mother received a call from the State Department telling her that her son was dead.
Another relative, Kenneth McCain, told the Associated Press the same thing, adding that “we do not know if he was fighting anyone.” Kenneth McCain hung up before answering how he is related to Douglas.
On Twitter, McCain referred to himself as “Duale Khalid,” and his bio reads: “It’s Islam over everything.”
He said he “reverted” to Islam about 10 years ago, and earlier tweets on his profile are filled with references to orthodox Islam. His more recent activity included retweets referring to ISIS. By late Tuesday afternoon, his Facebook page had been removed.
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
— Duale Khalid
McCain was born in 1981 Illinois, but moved with his family to Minnesota and graduated in 1999 from Robbinsdale-Cooper High School in New Hope, Minnesota. But he also left a trail of arrests in the Twin Cities area ranging from disorderly conduct to theft and marijuana possession charges, according to court records.
Kenyata McCain told the Star-Tribune that the family was in contact with her cousin as recently as last Friday and that he said he was in Turkey.
“I know that he had strong Muslim beliefs,” she said. “But I didn’t know that he was in support of ISIS. I didn’t think he would be.”
The U.S. government knows the names of a handful of American citizens who have linked up with radical Islamic fighters in Syria but sources say the actual number of U.S. recruits is likely in the dozens, CBS News Bob Orr reported last week.
Beyond that, more than a thousand Western Europeans have joined the terrorists, around 300 from France and 500 from Great Britain, including the executioner who killed American journalist James Foley this week.