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Killed IS militant was an American

Douglas McAuthur McCain. Photo: Hennepin County Sheriff's Office via The New York Times

Douglas McAuthur McCain. Photo: Hennepin County Sheriff's Office via The New York Times   | Photo Credit: HENNEPIN COUNTY SHERIFF

U.S. officials confirmed on Wednesday that an American man originally from San Diego, California, was killed last weekend while fighting for the militant Islamic State outfit in Syria.

Initial reports about the discovery of the body of Douglas McAuthur McCain (33), along with $800 in cash and a U.S. passport, came from individuals linked to the Free Syrian Army rebel group, who supplied U.S. media organisations with photos of McCain’s passport and of his body, including an unmistakable neck tattoo.

In a statement U.S. National Security Council Spokesperson Caitlin Hayden said that the White House was aware of McCain’s presence in Syria and could confirm that he was a U.S. citizen and that he had died.

“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,” Ms. Hayden added, underscoring what appears to be a rapidly mushrooming problem for Western nations, of growing numbers of its citizens travelling to Syria and Iraq to join jihadist groups there.

U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey said last week that officials were uncertain of even the range of Americans who had travelled to Syria, saying, “When I give you the number of more than 100, I can't tell you with high confidence that's a 100 of 200, 500, 1,000 or more, because it's so hard to track.”

The identification of McCain’s body on a Syrian battlefront comes a little more than a week after American journalist James Foley was apparently beheaded by a British-accented, masked Islamic State militant, and a grisly video of the act was posted on social media.

The incident sparked a massive search for the identity of Mr. Foley’s killer in the UK, with officials said to be using voice-recognition techniques and other methods to uncover the full name of a man only known as “John,” and believed to be the head guard of foreign hostages held in the Islamic State stronghold of Raqqa in Syria.

This week U.S. officials appeared to be urgently seeking more background details on McCain, even as media reports suggested that called himself “Duale ThaslaveofAllah” on Facebook and his Twitter bio read, “It’s Islam over everything.”

Friends of McCain said he converted to Islam around 2004 and initially he only spoke “a little bit about religion,” and seemed to respect their Christian faith.

However according to NBC News his social media posts to a “darker turn” by late 2010, for example one post that featured the black flag of Islamic State and other militant propaganda photos, and he then “appeared to strike up online friendships with several self-proclaimed jihadists.”

Sometime this summer McCain apparently travelled to Turkey, said to be a “common jihadi route into Syria,” and at least three persons were said to have met him in Istanbul.

In early June McCain wrote to an alleged ISIS fighter on Twitter, “I will be joining you guys soon,” and this was followed by posts where he said, “I’m with the brothers now... It takes a warrior to understand a warrior. Pray for ISIS.”

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Printable version | Mar 29, 2020 6:18:57 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/world/killed-is-militant-was-an-american/article6357557.ece

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