'My cousin isn't a terrorist' - FOX 32 News Chicago

'My cousin isn't a terrorist'

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U.S. officials say a man once known as Douglas McCain, who attended Twin Cities area high schools, died in Syria while fighting for the terror group ISIS -- but his cousin tells Fox 9 News she doesn't believe it.

Kenyata McCain explained that her cousin moved to San Diego a few years after high school and then got married and had a child. While family members do say that he changed after converting to Islam about a decade ago, they insist he maintained his Minnesota roots. Now, Kenyata McCain says she cannot believe State Department officials who say he died overseas.

"My reaction is: My cousin isn't a terrorist," she said. "And disbelief that he's dead."

According to Kenyata McCain, the State Department called her aunt on Monday to say they believe her son, Douglas, was killed while fighting with the same group of Islamic militants accused of beheading American journalist James Foley last week. Officials apparently identified him by his passport and unique neck tattoo, which can be seen in several of his mug shots.

"If that turns out to be true, it has a lot to do with his beliefs that we don't know about -- the way he changed that we don't know about," Kenyata McCain told Fox 9 News. "The person we know, this is not who he was."

Douglas McCain attended Robbinsdale Cooper High School in the late 1990s, and in the class picture, he can be seen standing next to friend Troy Kastigar. Years later, Kastigar would become one of three Minnesota men shown in a recruitment video for al-Shabaab. He died fighting for that terror group in Somalia two years ago.

MORE: Video posted by al-Shabaab features 3 Minn. men

According to his Twitter page, Douglas McCain converted to Islam about a decade ago and appeared to become increasingly militant. In a recent post, he wrote, "It's funny to me how all these so call Muslims claim that they love Allah but always curse the one who try to implement his laws." Even so, Kenyata McCain says her cousin was not a fundamentalist or a terrorist.

"He was always joking around, doing stuff to make people happy -- goofing off, always trying to make people laugh," she recalled. "Didn't care if you were mad, squeezed your cheeks. He was a good person."

Omar Jamal met Douglas McCain a couple of times at Minneapolis mosques, and he estimates at least 10 Minnesotans from the Somali Community have been recruited to fight for ISIS in Syria.

"Douglas McCain wasn't the first one and, unfortunately, he won't be the last," Jamal said.

In June, a Somali journalist released a photo that claimed to show a Minnesota man in Syria. The photo identifies a man photographed while holding a Koran and what appears to be a suicide bomb on his chest as a Somali American. That man is also believed to be dead.

Kenyata McCain did confirm that she spoke with her cousin through Facebook on Friday, and said she heard from family members that he was in Turkey. Now, she wonders if he is actually dead -- and if his body will be returned to the U.S. for burial if so.

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