By Paul Walsh, Star Tribune
MINNEAPOLIS — A former Minnesotan linked to the terrorist group Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant has been killed in Syria.
Douglas McCain had lived in San Diego in recent years and was a 1999 graduate of Robbinsdale Cooper High School in New Hope, said two cousins who still live in the Minneapolis area and are roughly his age.
Kenyata McCain and another first cousin said Tuesday that McCain’s mother received a call Monday from the State Department reporting that her 33-year-old son was killed over the weekend.
The New York Times reported Tuesday night that a senior U.S. official said McCain died fighting for ISIL and that a human rights group that monitors the fighting in Syria said he was killed in a battle in Marea, a city in northern Syria near the Turkish border.
“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 released Tuesday evening. “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.”
NBC News was the first to report McCain’s death and also said he was fighting on behalf of ISIL, attributing its information to the Free Syrian Army. NBC said McCain was one of three “foreign jihadis” killed in a battle, according to an activist linked to the Free Syrian Army. The network added that it has seen McCain’s passport and his body, both featuring a distinctive neck tattoo.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said during a briefing in Washington before the NSC’s confirmation that her agency was aware of the reports, and was in contact with the family but did not release the American’s identity.
“We are in contact with the family and are providing all possible consular assistance,” Psaki said. “As you know, there’s typically a process that needs to be gone through before any confirmation can be made.”
The network said McCain called himself “Duale ThaslaveofAllah” on Facebook and his Twitter bio read, “It’s Islam over everything.” As news spread Tuesday of McCain’s death, someone was making changes to the page and then it was no longer accessible.
Kenyata McCain said she was in touch with Douglas McCain as recently as Friday, and “he was telling all of us he was in Turkey.”
She noted that his Facebook page had a posting that “said ISIS and he was in support of it.”
“I know that he had strong Muslim beliefs,” she added, “but I didn’t know that he was in support of ISIS. I didn’t think he would be.”
The other cousin, who asked that his name be withheld, said that while “I don’t know what he went over there for, I don’t want people to get the idea that he was some kind of monster.”
He added that Douglas McCain had been working in the San Diego area as a caregiver to clients with special needs and raising a daughter, who is nearing her first birthday.
He described his cousin as “a Muslim, but he’s not a radical. People get the words mixed up.”
Facebook was also how this cousin last communicated with Douglas McCain, whose last address in Minnesota was an apartment in New Hope.
“His last couple of posts, you know,” showed sympathy for ISIL. ” ‘Where are you?’ ” the cousin asked McCain. “I just had a funny feeling.”
A sister of Douglas McCain’s, Delecia, eulogized her brother in a Facebook posting, writing, “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.”
McCain had a few scrapes with the law while in Minnesota, according to court records. He has convictions for a minor drug possession crime, theft, disorderly conduct and driving after his license was revoked.