Douglas McAuthur McCain
ABC 7 screenshot

There was the idea that if the jihadist group the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, was able “to turn” an American—that is, win over his or her support—it would then use the American to orchestrate a terrorist attack on U.S. soil.

But 33-year-old Douglas McAuthur McCain, a black American, defied that expectation, a New York Times report explains, and fought alongside other ISIS rebels right on Middle Eastern soil. McCain was killed this past weekend, becoming the first American to die while fighting for a pro-jihadist group in the region.


“This incident also confirms that American and presumably other foreign fighters are prepared to attack where directed by ISIS,” Richard Barrett, a former British intelligence officer, told the New York Times.

That McCain picked ISIS as the jihadist group to champion is of particular significance because it has emerged as the “most serious threat the United States has faced” since 9/11. ISIS is responsible for beheading American journalist James Foley and then posting the video on the Internet.

That McCain is a black American is also perplexing to American officials who are having a difficult time pinpointing what type of individual is most likely to join these kinds of terrorist groups. McCain grew up in a Minneapolis suburb and was a convert to Islam. He posted remarks about his dedication to his faith on Twitter, saying that it was the “best thing” ever to happen to him. 


A childhood friend described McCain as losing his way as he grew older after his dad died, but maintained that McCain had “a big heart.”

McCain was killed by a pro-U.S. rival group in Syria. His American passports and hundreds of dollars in cash were found on him.

Read more at the New York Times.

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