The signs of a homegrown jihadi fighter are not always obvious. American citizen Douglas McAuthur McCain liked to play basketball in Minnesota, where he grew up, and then moved to California, where he attempted a rap career. But McCain had also pledged allegiance to the Islamic State. A deeper look into his life shows he rediscovered religion as an adult, he might have lived with a man who died fighting for al-Shabaab and he talked about his trip to Syria on social media.
Days after that same group, also known as ISIS, released a gory video of the beheading of American journalist James Foley, McCain was killed in a clash with an opposing rebel faction, the Free Syrian Army. The FSA told NBC News it found $800 in cash and his American passport on the body.
— Circa (@Circa) August 26, 2014
Delecia McCain, who identified herself as McCain’s sister, wrote on Facebook Tuesday: "I really don’t understand why and how and I have no words. I never thought this will be the way we say goodbye… This is absolutely unreal to me I love you big brother."
The White House confirmed his death and McCain’s family was informed on Monday, according to NBC News. Foreigners from all over the world have gone to Syria to join the Islamic State, formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. McCain is surely not the only American to join the group, but he is one of the first we know of. The Pentagon has said that they know of a “handful” of Americans currently fighting in Syria, but McCain is the first name and face we can put on homegrown terrorism.
"The threat we are most concerned about to the homeland is that of fighters like this returning to the U.S. and committing acts of terrorism," a senior administration official told NBC News.
Here’s what we know about McCain so far:
1. He went by an adopted name.
2. He “reverted” to Islam in 2004.
In May, McCain posted this to his Twitter account: “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.”
3. He reportedly got to Syria in early June.
According to the NBC report, three separate people said they saw McCain in Istanbul. The route through Turkey is a common entryway into Syria for Americans and Europeans. American passport holders need an entry visa for Turkey, but they may purchase it at the airport after they’ve arrived.
4. He possibly had an al-Qaeda affiliated roommate
While living in Minnesota, ABC News reported, McCain shared an address with Troy Kastigar, McCain and Kastigar were classmates, and a man by the same name was killed in Somalia in 2009 while fighting with the al-Qaeda affiliate al-Shabaab.
5. He used to work at a Somali restaurant
While in California, friends told NBC, McCain worked in a Somali restaurant in San Diego called African Sun.