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American Reportedly Fighting Alongside Extremists In Syria Dies

A U.S. citizen reportedly fighting alongside a terrorist group in Syria has died, the White House says.

The National Security Council has not said whether Douglas McAuthur McCain was fighting for the group that calls itself the Islamic State (also known as ISIS or ISIL), NPR's Dina Temple-Raston reports. The Islamic State has claimed him, though.

"They actually put out a statement that said that he had died in battle," Temple-Raston tells our Newscast Desk.

A statement from the Security Council confirmed McCain's death, and noted that the White House was aware of his presence in Syria. Spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden added: "We continue to use every tool we possess to disrupt and dissuade individuals from traveling abroad for violent jihad and to track and engage those who return."

Thousands of young men around the world, including Westerners, have joined the Islamic State and other rebel groups fighting in Syria, as Temple-Raston has previously reported.

"The White House knows that there are some 150 Americans who have left the United States and actually gone to fight in Syria. What's unclear is who they're fighting for," she reports. They could be fighting for the Free Syrian Army, Temple-Raston says, an opposition group that the Obama administration supports.

This confusion is one of the reasons why the administration is keen on intelligence gathering in Syria, Temple-Raston says.

NBC News says it has contacted "several members of McCain's family and dozens of friends." NBC describes McCain as a 33-year-old who grew up in Minnesota's Twin Cities area and later moved to San Diego, Calif.

"McCain's online life ... painted the picture of a devout Muslim who deeply loved his family — along with Pizza Hut and hip-hop," NBC reports.

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Dana Farrington is a digital editor coordinating online coverage on the Washington Desk — from daily stories to visual feature projects to the weekly newsletter. She has been with the NPR Politics team since President Trump's inauguration. Before that, she was among NPR's first engagement editors, managing the homepage for and the main social accounts. Dana has also worked as a weekend web producer and editor, and has written on a wide range of topics for NPR, including tech and women's health.
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