NEW HOPE, Minn. (AP) — An American man believed to have been killed in Syria was there to fight alongside an extremist militant group, most likely the Islamic State, a U.S. official said Tuesday.
Investigators were aware that Douglas McAuthur McCain was in the country to fight with the militant group, but they did not yet have his body and were still trying to verify information about his death, said the official, who was not authorized to discuss by name an ongoing investigation and spoke only on condition of anonymity.
A relative, Kenneth McCain, told The Associated Press that the State Department called to tell his family that Douglas McCain had been killed in Syria. "We do not know if he was fighting anyone," he said.
U.S. officials, concerned about what they say is the growing threat posed by the extremist Islamic State group, say surveillance flights and spy planes have begun over Syria on the orders of President Barack Obama. The move could pave the way for airstrikes against the group, which controls a large part of eastern Syria and crossed into Iraq earlier this year. The militant group also killed an American, journalist James Foley, and is holding an American woman hostage.
It was unclear when McCain, who had most recently lived in San Diego, traveled to Syria. He grew up outside Minneapolis in the town of New Hope.
A cousin, Kenyata McCain, told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that she had spoken to McCain as recently as Friday and "he was telling all of us he was in Turkey."
"I know that he had strong Muslim beliefs," she told the newspaper. "But I didn't know that he was in support of ISIS. I didn't think he would be."
At an apartment complex in New Hope, Shelly Chase remembered McCain as a friendly boy who welcomed her 9-year-old son, Isaac, when the Chase family moved in some two decades ago. Even though McCain was a few years older, the boys used to lift weights, hit punching bags and play basketball.
Both Shelly Chase and her son, now 28, fought back tears as they talked about McCain.
"I'm holding in the tears, I really am, because this is hard. He was a good kid," Shelly Chase said. "Someone must have persuaded him."
Isaac Chase said he had always looked up to McCain. Chase joined the military in 2007, and said before he left, he knew McCain was running into trouble, sometimes smoking marijuana at the park. Minnesota criminal courts records show McCain had a few minor traffic offenses, including two instances where he was convicted of giving police a false name or ID.
Continue reading this story on the...