Washington: California-born Douglas McAuthur McCain has become the first American jihadi to have died in Syria while fighting for Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a terrorist outfit that has gained control of large parts of Syria and Iraq.
The death of the 33-year-old American has left many top US officials seriously concerned. "We were aware of US Citizen Douglas McAuthur McCain's presence in Syria and can confirm his death. We continue to use every tool we possess to disrupt and dissuade individuals from travelling abroad for violent jihad and to track and engage those who return," Caitlin Hayden, Spokesperson of the National Security Council, the White House said.
According to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, McCain died in a battle between rival extremist groups in the suburbs of Aleppo, the commercial capital and largest city of Syria. His uncle, Ken McCain told the CNN that Douglas McCain converted from Christianity to Islam several years ago.
The fact that he became a jihadi left his family "devastated" and "just as surprised as the country," the uncle said. The US intelligence agencies had been warning about such involvements for the past several years, particularly after the Mumbai terrorist attack in 2008, in which an American jihadi David Headley played a key role.
The US estimates say that there are about 100 American passport holders who are fighting for ISIL in Syria and Iraq. The US intelligence agencies and security experts have cautioned the national leadership against the increasing threat posed by home grown terrorists.
While McCain is the first American jihadi to have died fighting for ISIL in Syria, he is not the only one. Moner Mohammad Abu-Salha, 22, who grew up and went to school in Florida died in a northern Syria suicide bombing. Born in Southern California in January 1981, McCain moved with his family to Minnesota where he attended school.