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Abdullahi Ahmed Abdullahi, 34, was charged in the U.S. with conspiring to provide and providing material support to terrorists engaged in violent activities in Syria.HO/The Canadian Press

A Canadian national who lived in Southern California was sentenced to 20 years in U.S. prison on Monday for helping at least a half-dozen Canadians and Americans join the Islamic State group in Syria in 2013 and 2014 – including the first known American to die fighting for the militant organization.

Abdullahi Ahmed Abdullahi directly funded “violent acts of terrorism,” including the kidnapping and killing of people in Syria, said U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman in a statement.

Mr. Abdullahi acknowledged in a plea agreement that he helped a resident of San Diego, Douglas McAuthur McCain, join IS. Mr. McCain was killed in Syria while fighting alongside IS fighters against Syrian opposition forces in 2014.

Prosecutors also said Mr. Abdullahi provided money to send an 18-year-old cousin from Minneapolis, Minn., to join IS fighters in Syria, as well as three other cousins from Edmonton.

The men all died in combat, according to the U.S. government.

Mr. Abdullahi was detained by Canadian authorities in 2017 and extradited to the U.S. two years later. He pleaded guilty to providing material support to terrorists in 2021.

He also admitted to robbing an Edmonton jewellery store in January, 2014, to raise money to fund the foreign fighters. Weeks after committing that robbery, Mr. Abdullahi sent money to Mr. McCain so he could go to Syria.

Mr. McCain’s brother, Marchello McCain, was sentenced in 2018 to 10 years in U.S. federal prison for making false statements during several interviews with federal agents from 2014 to 2015, including denying knowing that his brother planned to fight for IS. He told the FBI that he thought his brother was going to Turkey to play music and teach English.

The U.S. announced earlier this month it killed three IS leaders in two separate operations, including a rare ground raid in a part of northeast Syria under government control.

Despite their defeat in Syria in 2019, when IS lost the last sliver of land its fighters once controlled, the extremists’ sleeper cells have continued to carry out deadly attacks in Syria and Iraq. IS fighters once held large parts of the two countries.

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