Who Was Douglas McArthur McCain, The American Killed While Battling For ISIS?
Here's some bad news: it appears recent reports about Americans fighting for ISIS were right on the money. At least that's how it seems now, because last weekend, an American was killed fighting for ISIS in Syria, NBC News revealed Tuesday. The man's name is Douglas McAurthur McCain, formerly a resident of San Diego, California, and now the public face of U.S. citizens who have joined the terrorist group.
Thanks to NBC, we already have some information about McCain. The rebels learned they'd killed an American when a search of his wallet and possessions turned up a U.S. passport; McCain's death was confirmed to NBC News by his aunt. He was 33.
The situation feels improbable — a native of the United States becoming so radicalized as to join a group wreaking a blood-drenched path through both Iraq and Syria — but we've been here before. In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks and the ensuing Afghanistan War, it was discovered that Marin County, California resident John Walker Lindh had joined the Taliban and taken up arms against the U.S., an act which earned him a 20-year prison sentence.
In other words, violently fundamentalist interpretations (or misinterpretations, depending on your perspective) of Islam aren't just a Middle Eastern or European phenomenon — it can happen here, too. Here are a few glimpses of Douglas McAuthur McCain, thanks to NBC's investigation.
He Attended High School in Minnesota
Born in 1981 in Illinois, McCain's family moved to Minnesota when he was a child, where he attended high school until his graduation in 1999. Described as a "goofball" and a "fun guy" by a former classmate to NBC, McCain played for his high school basketball team, and played pickup games at his local YMCA.
McCain reportedly had some brushes with legal trouble in 2000 and 2006, for disorderly conduct and obstruction, respectively.
He "Reverted" to His Islamic Faith in 2004
In 2004, McCain seemingly began embracing Islam, though NBC News reports it as a "reversion." It's impossible to say whether his religious views always veered towards the radical, though that's not what people around him made him out to be like — a trip to Sweden between three and four years ago (McCain was a rapper, and was performing abroad) gave a handful of people firsthand experience with him. At least one of them told NBC News that he seemed funny, nice, and was "respectful" of their Christianity.
He Moved to California, and Things Started to Turn
There's no evidence of a pivotal change in McCain's behavior, or his viewpoint Islamic militant groups in the Middle East. But suffice to say, his story reached a critical stage when he moved to California, where he attended San Diego City College.
McCain's social media accounts — he used the online moniker "Duale ThaslaveofAllah" — gradually went from mostly unpolitical to more overt commentary about events in the Middle East. Perhaps most telling and most concerning, he posted an image of the black flag of ISIS, foreshadowing his eventual fate.
He Joined Up With "the Brothers"
His Twitter account went dark for over a full year, from January 2013 to May 2014, and when he returned, he was openly tweeting back and forth with fundamentalist jihadists, and seemingly making plans to join up with ISIS in Syria.
He retweeted a speech by ISIS spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, and by early June was talking with an ISIS member about Syria — specifically, he referenced "r-town," which according to NBC News is likely a reference to Raqqa, the group's base of operations in the war-torn state. Then came this ominous tweet: "I’m with the brothers now."
By the estimates of American officials, McCain is far from the only American fighting for ISIS abroad. While the situation isn't nearly as dire as it is for Britain, it's believed that 100 or so American citizens has joined ISIS' ranks.
Images: Douglas McAurthur McCain/Facebook (2); KurdeAvrupa/YouTube; Getty Images