Hawaii-based army soldier to plead guilty to ISIS support bid
A Hawaii-based Army soldier accused of attempting to support ISIS group will plead guilty, his lawyers said on Tuesday.
Birney Bervar, one of Sgt. 1st Class Ikaika Kang’s attorneys, told the AP that Kang will plead guilty as charged in the indictment, which accuses him of providing material aid to terrorists. Mr Kang is agreeing to a 25-year sentence for charges that could have put him in prison for life, Bervar said.
Alexander Silvert, an assistant federal defender representing Mr Kang, also said the soldier has agreed to plead guilty.
Court documents allege Mr Kang provided classified military information to undercover agents whom he believed were part of ISIS.
Mr Kang is scheduled to withdraw his not guilty plea Thursday, court records show. The hearing was moved from the afternoon to the morning because of concerns about a hurricane headed for Hawaii, Mr Silvert said.
A plea agreement has not been filed in court yet.
A confidential informant told authorities Kang watched videos depicting beheadings and other violence in his room for hours every day, according to court documents.
Mr Kang told the informant that if he became an ISIS member, he would be a suicide bomber and attack Schofield Barracks, a sprawling Army base outside Honolulu, according to an affidavit filed in court.
Mr Kang began researching the Muslim religion in 2014, couldn’t wait to move to the Middle East to “join the cause” and was “only in the military for a paycheck,” the informant said, according to the affidavit.
When he met with the undercover agents at a home in Honolulu, he pledged allegiance to the group and kissed an ISIS flag, according to court documents. He also swore an oath of loyalty to its leader, Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi.
The FBI document quoted Mr Kang as saying that he wanted to take a rifle and “kill a bunch of people”. He owned two weapons, both registered in his name, an AR-15-style gun and a pistol.
He also “said that he wanted to help ISIS as early as late 2015, because he saw how ill-equipped they were for the fight,” the affidavit said.
Mr Kang told the undercover agent that ISIS was only “fighting people who were committing genocide” and said he was afraid to meet with ISIS or speak to them online in case the FBI “show up at my door”. He also praised the Orlando nightclub massacre and former Nazi leader Adolf Hitler in conversations with the informant.
Agents eventually arrested him in July 2017 after the undercover operation.
Mr Kang may suffer from service-related mental health issues that the government was aware of but neglected to treat, Bervar has said previously.
Mr Kang has been detained without bail since his arrest last year. Kang is still in the Army, but his duty status is “confined,” said Lt. Col. Curt Kellogg, with the 25th Infantry Division.
He had served tours for the US military in both Iraq and Afghanistan and served as an air traffic controller and a hand to hand combat expert.
During his time in the military, he received several warnings for threatening behaviour to his colleagues. He had threatened to hurt or kill other members of the military and argued in favour of ISIS while at work.
The FBI said that Mr Kang was a lone actor who was not working with other radicalised individuals and did not pose a wider threat to the American island.
America has suffered several ISIS-claimed attacks on its soil, the worst being the Orlando shooting in which Omar Mateen shot and killed 49 people in June 2016. In San Bernardino, California, a couple opened fire on a Christmas party, killing 14 people in December 2015.
Source: The National