US soldier pleads guilty to attempting to provide support to ISIS

Ikaika Erik Kang, a 35-year-old sergeant first class in the US Army, pleaded guilty Wednesday in federal court to four counts of attempting to provide material support to ISIS, according to the Department of Justice.

“Kang swore to defend the United States as a member of our military, but betrayed his country by swearing allegiance to ISIS and attempting to provide material support to the foreign terrorist organization,” Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers announced Wednesday. “With today’s plea, he will be held accountable for his crimes.”

Kang reached a plea deal with the US and agreed to serve 25 years in prison, and could spend the rest of his life on supervised release.

“This is the first case in the State of Hawaii where someone was convicted of attempting to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization,” Special Agent in Charge Sean Kaul of the FBI’s Honolulu Field Office said in a statement. “This should serve as reminder that even though we are 2,500 miles from the US Mainland, these crimes can and do happen everywhere.”

According to a statement released by the Justice Department, Kang was sympathetic to ISIS by at least early 2016 and regularly watched ISIS propaganda videos. He made many statements in support of ISIS, expressed a desire to join the terrorist group and spoke about committing acts of violence.

In late June and early July of 2018, Kang met several times with undercover FBI agents who he believed had connections to ISIS, according to the Justice Department. Kang provided them with sensitive military documents — some classified on the “secret” level — with the intention of having them passed on to ISIS.

“The documents included, among other things: classified air traffic control documents that describe call signs, aircraft types, route points, directives, mission procedures, and radio frequencies; the US military’s ‘weapons file,’ which describes all the armament capabilities of the US armed forces; details about a sensitive mobile airspace management system used by the US military; and documents containing personally identifiable information of US service members,” a statement by the Justice Department read.

The department said Kang later provided the undercover agents with “a commercially purchased small aerial drone, a military chest rig, and other military-style clothing and gear.” He described how ISIS could use the drone to track US troops and evade US armored vehicles.

Kang then met two additional undercover FBI personnel: one who said he was a high-ranking ISIS leader and another who said he was an ISIS fighter, according to the Justice Department. Kang led the undercover agents in a hand-to-hand military combat session in order to train the supposed ISIS member in fighting techniques. The sessions were video recorded and Kang believed the video would be used to train other ISIS fighters.

On July 8, 2017, Kang swore an oath of loyalty to ISIS and its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, in a fake ceremony conducted by the undercover FBI agents. After the ceremony, Kang said he wanted to get his rifle and go to downtown Honolulu and Waikiki strip and start shooting. He was subsequently arrested and taken into custody, and was indicted on terrorism charges on July 19, 2017.

Kang will be sentenced on Dec. 10 by Senior US District Judge Susan Oki Mollway.