A Pittsburgh man may be the latest American killed as part of the global Muslim jihad against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The man, identified as Amir Farouk Ibrahim, 32, was reportedly killed July 22 in fighting between Syrian Kurdish forces and those linked to the Islamic State of Iraq, an al-Qaida affiliate.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based Syrian opposition group, posted pictures of Ibrahim's American and Egyptian passports on its Facebook page. Ibrahim's passport appeared alongside about a dozen others belonging to men from around the Islamic world, underscoring the fact that the Syrian conflict has become a transnational one.
"The documents were found after the ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) retreated from the town after intense clashes last week with the YPG (Yekineyen Parastina Gela Kurdish faction)," the Syrian Observatory wrote on its Facebook page. "We do not know the fate of the owners of these documents, whether they are dead or alive and still active in Syria."
Ibrahim would be the second American killed fighting in Syria's civil war. Nicole Lynn Mansfield, 33, a Muslim convert from Flint, Mich., was killed fighting in Syria in May.
Ibrahim's relatives, who now live in Cairo, Egypt, told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that he traveled to Turkey in February or March and then crossed into Syria. Turkey has been a major entry point for Islamist fighters looking for a piece of the action.
Ibrahim's father said his son had told him that he was in Syria helping people evade the fighting.
"He came to me and asked me if he can go to Syria. I told him, 'Over my dead body,' " Ibrahim's father said. "If you go, I don't want to hear about you at all."
About a dozen American citizens reportedly joined the fighting in Syria, the New York Times reported Sunday. Their involvement, along with jihadists from various European countries, has counterterrorism experts concerned they will bring their violent ways home with them.
"Syria has become really the predominant jihadist battlefield in the world," National Counterterrorism Center Director Matthew G. Olsen said earlier this month. "The concern going forward from a threat perspective is there are individuals traveling to Syria, becoming further radicalized, becoming trained and then returning as part of really a global jihadist movement to Western Europe and, potentially, to the United States."
Classified and unclassified sources said that 10 percent of the approximately 6,000 foreign fighters who have entered Syria came from North America, Europe or Australia. Many of these fighters have joined al-Qaida's affiliate in Syria, Jabhat al-Nusra.
Eric Harroun, 30, a former U.S. soldier from Phoenix, was indicted in Virginia last month on charges that he was fighting for al-Nusra. He bragged on his Facebook page back in February: "Downed a Syrian Helicopter then Looted all Intel and Weapons!"