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San Diego Man Killed In Syria Fighting For ISIS

Evening Edition

Aired 8/27/14 on KPBS Midday Edition.

Why Americans Join Terrorist Groups

GUESTS:

Dipak Gupta, is a Distinguished Professor of Political Science, San Diego State University

UCSD economics Professor Eli Berman is author of "Radical, Religious and Violent: The New Economics of Terrorism."

Transcript

Hennepin County Sheriff

Douglas McCain is shown in a photo from the Hennepin County Sheriff Department.

A San Diego man who studied at City College was killed over the weekend in Syria fighting for the Islamic State of Iraq, NBC News reported Tuesday.

Douglas McAuthur McCain, 33, was reportedly killed in a battle between two Syrian opposition groups. When the victors went through the belongings of some of those killed, they found McCain's passport and $800 in his pocket. McCain traveled to Syria from Turkey, according to media reports. He was subsequently placed on a potential terrorist watch list designed to generate heightened scrutiny if he attempted to board a flight heading to the U.S., according to the New York Times.

NBC News reported:

Senior administration officials told NBC News they were aware that McCain was killed in Syria, adding that they believe dozens of Americans have gone there to fight with extremist groups — including, but not limited to, ISIS.

"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.

McCain was one of more than 100 Americans who are believed to have traveled to Syria to fight for Islamic Groups, which are known for using social media and other websites to recruit foreigners, U-T San Diego reported.

McCain's uncle, Ken McCain, told CNN that the U.S. State Department informed the family of the death on Monday. The uncle told CNN that his nephew had converted to Islam several years ago. Also from CNN:

The family wasn't alarmed by his conversion, but they became aware of Facebook posts sympathetic to ISIS, an Islamist militant group, when he traveled to what they believed to be Turkey.

The fact that Douglas McCain became a jihadi left his family "devastated" and "just as surprised as the country," Ken McCain said.

Ken McCain described the nephew he knew as "a good person, loved his family, loved his mother, loved his faith" — the latter being a reference to the Christianity he practiced before his conversion.

According to NBC, Douglas McCain was born in Illinois and later moved to Minnesota with his family. McCain eventually moved to San Diego and studied at City College, according to his Facebook profile, where he went by the name "Duale ThaslaveofAllahk." The San Diego Community College District confirmed he attended City College, City News Service reported.

He is also reported to have worked at an area restaurant and attended the mosque in City Heights. According to NBC:

... McCain reportedly worked at a Somali restaurant in San Diego — African Spice — and was known around the Masjid Nur mosque, according to an acquaintance.

“He was a normal guy, who was social, open-minded, like to smile always, and always wanted to be a good Muslim,” the acquaintance from the restaurant said.

San Diegan Mark Arabo, an advocate nationally for Iraqi immigrants and Chaldean Christians, issued a statement reacting to McCain's death. Arabo said:

It has become overwhelmingly clear that ISIS poses a threat not simply to the Middle-East, but to America. We can only assume that this San Diego man has not worked alone in the radicalization of his ideas. While the United States can work towards eliminating members of ISIS from the Middle East, it is much more difficult to kill an idea.

City News Service contributed to this report.

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