Photos show arrested Army soldier kissing ISIS flag

A US Army soldier accused of supporting ISIS kissed and posed next to the terror group’s flag, photos released by the US attorney’s office in Honolulu show.

Ikaika Erik Kang, 34, was arrested Saturday and charged with “providing material support” to ISIS, the FBI said.

The photos were presented as evidence during a bail hearing Thursday in Honolulu. A federal judge ruled that Kang would remain in custody without bail following a request by federal officials.

Prosecutors argued Kang could pose a danger to the community and that he is a substantial flight risk, CNN affiliate KHON-TV in Honolulu reported.

His next court appearance is scheduled for July 24.

Kang, who was stationed at Schofield Barracks in Hawaii, was investigated by the FBI and Army for more than a year, the FBI said in a statement.

The FBI said it believed he was a “lone actor.”

Kang’s father arrived at the hearing Thursday in hopes of having a chance to talk to his son.

“Just hold in there. You have a support group,” Clifford Kang told KHON he would tell his son after learning he wouldn’t be able to contact him. “Just relax and I’ll be there for him. Just like the old Navy saying, we don’t leave our men behind.”

A decorated veteran

The younger Kang is an active-duty Army air traffic control operator assigned to the 25th Infantry Division at Wheeler Army Airfield in Hawaii. Kang’s service records show he was deployed to Afghanistan from July 2013 to April 2014 and served in Iraq from March 2010 to February 2011. He has received a range of honors for his service, including the Army Commendation Medal.

An attorney representing Kang indicated his client had possible mental health issues that had gone untreated.

“It would appear that Sgt. Kang, a decorated veteran of two deployments to the Middle East, may have some service-related mental health issues which the government was aware of, but neglected to treat,” the lawyer, Birney Bervar, said in an email.

On Thursday, Bervar told KHON he plans to have Kang undergo a mental health evaluation.

“The government should have offered a hand to pull him back, but instead it looks like they just pushed him and pushed him and pushed him.” he said. “It looks to me that they’ve exploited his mental illness and has thrown gasoline on the fire of his mental illness to get him to commit a crime that they could arrest him for.”

His apparent radicalization

The criminal complaint filed against Kang alleges he swore allegiance to ISIS and tried to provide ISIS with both military documents and training. The complaint said Kang made threats and pro-ISIS arguments while in the Army and that his security clearance was revoked temporarily in response to those actions in 2012.

The Army noted his apparent radicalization to the FBI last year. After his arrest, Kang waived his Miranda rights, admitted he had pledged to join ISIS and attempted to aid the group, according to the complaint.

The complaint alleges Kang spoke with undercover FBI agents purporting to be connected to ISIS. It says that Kang told one agent about a desire to join ISIS and offered to provide military documents and demonstrate martial arts techniques to another agent.

In May, a US Air Force veteran was sentenced to 35 years in prison for attempting to join ISIS. Authorities arrested Tairod Pugh in New Jersey in 2015.

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Iraq PM in Mosul: ‘The great victory is at hand’

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi arrived in Mosul Sunday to announce victory over ISIS forces in the city.

“Al-Abadi said the battle is settled and the remaining pockets of ISIS are encircled in the last inches of the city,” his media office said in a statement.

“It is a matter of time before we declare to our people the great victory.”

The Prime Minister said the Iraqi military is fighting to free civilians whom ISIS is “using as human shields in approximately 50 to 100 houses.”

Earlier Sunday, he tweeted that he’d arrived in the “liberated city of Mosul” and “congratulates the heroic fighters and the Iraqi people in achieving this great victory.”

Video showed al-Abadi walking through streets in Mosul as crowds cheered him.

Mosul is Iraq’s biggest metropolis outside of Baghdad, and gaining control of the city was one of ISIS’ most significant strategic wins.

In 2014, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi stood at the 12th century pulpit of the city’s al-Nuri Mosque — since destroyed by his followers — and announced the creation of the so-called Islamic caliphate. It was the first and only time the leader of the terrorist group spoke publicly to his followers.

When the terror group seized Mosul in June of that year, it also took control of more than 2.5 million people and subjected some to horrors.

It beheaded people in public, threw gay men to their deaths from the top of buildings and made prisoners out of men who did not grow beards and women who did not wear Islamic clothing such as burqas.

In October last year, al-Abadi announced the start of the mission to retake Mosul, using a diverse coalition of about 100,000 troops.

Mosul has been considered one of the main entry points for foreign fighters coming into the country.

As fighters flocked to Mosul, hundreds of thousands of residents fled, prompting a refugee crisis.

The city is also near some of Iraq’s most vital oil fields, as well an oil pipeline that services Turkey. Securing these fields could bolster Iraq’s economy and hit ISIS’ finances hard, as the militant group sells oil illegally to fund its operations.

Long operation

The Iraqi security forces’ operation to retake the city began last October, and while no one was expecting the street-to-street battles to be easy, the fighting has dragged on for months.

First to fall was east Mosul, which was retaken in January. A second push, initiated in February, has focused on pushing remaining militants out of the west of the city.

Before ISIS seized control, Mosul was home to 2.5 million people. But hundreds of thousands fled as ISIS asserted their violent, extremist policies.

Since the start of the offensive to take it back, almost three-quarters of a million residents have fled. Many now languish in camps for Internally Displaced People (IDPs) or have fled the country entirely.

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Examining issue of veteran homelessness on Memorial Day

When the city of Fort Lauderdale abruptly cleared dozens of homeless people out of Stranahan Park earlier this month, two of those displaced were homeless veterans Trinidad DeLeon and Michael Rayburn.

“We’re distraught,” DeLeon said. “We’re confused.”

Added Rayburn, “All of the sudden, they came in and started bulldozing.”
 
For Greg Crompton, veteran homelessness is a personal issue.

The Army veteran, who is recently homeless, spent Monday trying to raise awareness among the revelers at Fort Lauderdale Beach for those who served.

“I want to see all veterans being treated fairly and the sacrifices they made to be honored — that’s all,” Crompton said.
 
But Lorraine Wilby, CEO of the Task Force Fore Ending Homelessness, said federal programs under President Barack Obama drastically reduced the problem over the past few years.

“As of last month, (the) number was 434 veterans in Broward County (who) were off the street and into their own apartment,” Wilby said.

Despite the strides, Wilby said, there are still about 130 homeless vets on the streets currently.

At St. Christopher’s Church in Fort Lauderdale, Pamela Newman spoke with Local 10. Newman, a U.S. Army veteran, has been living in a car with her husband, John, for about three years.

Her seven-year career ended when she was accidentally shot in her foot.
 
“Do you think America is taking care of its veterans well enough?” a reporter asked.

Said Newman, “No, because a lot of us are sleeping on the streets.”

Newman said she hopes to get housing soon after getting a veteran’s voucher recently.

Her husband said it’s something she deeply deserves.

“They say they’re going to get all the vets off the street,” John Newman said. “They’re not. She’s right there. If that’s the best we can do for our vets, this country needs to cry.”

Wilby said she’s concerned that major cuts in President Donald Trump’s proposed budget could negatively affect homeless veterans, but that has yet to be seen.

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US-led coalition airstrikes targeted Syrian regime forces

Syrian regime forces occupying five vehicles were targeted by US airstrikes after breaching a “de-confliction zone,” a US official told CNN Thursday.

The strike was near a base in An Tanf used by the US-led coalition to train “Vetted Syrian Opposition” to aid the fight against ISIS.

Two US aircraft were dispatched as a “show of force” to get the Syrian vehicles to turn around. According to a US defense official, the vehicles did not stop and the show of force was escalated to include an airstrike. The official said at this time it is not clear if the strike was intended as a warning or intended to hit regime forces, who were militia tied to the regime as opposed to regular army troops.

A second US defense official said that an additional strike did hit the convoy after the vehicles continued toward the base.

A convoy of 20 pro-regime vehicles were headed toward An Tanf Wednesday night, searching vehicles and buildings along the way, according to a US official. Thirteen of the vehicles breached the “de-confliction zone” around the base that is the area that the coalition has communicated to the Russians to stay away from. The official said five of the vehicles came within 29 kilometers of the base at about midnight EST Thursday when the aircraft were dispatched.

There is a Syrian regime base nearby, the official said, adding that forces there are equipping to handle about a battalion’s worth of troops.

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ISIS leader in Afghanistan killed in raid

The ISIS leader in Afghanistan, Sheikh Abdul Hasib, was killed in an April 27 raid conducted by Afghan special security forces and US troops, Afghan and US authorities said Sunday.

Fifth US Army rangers and 40 Afghan commandos were dropped by helicopter into Nangarhar Province, within a mile or so of the site where the United States dropped the MOAB, or “mother of all bombs,” on April 13.

Within minutes, the rangers were surrounded by heavy fire, the Pentagon said, causing the soldiers to call in support from an AC-130 aircraft, F-16s, drones and Apache helicopters.

The Pentagon said Hasib was the target of the attack, but didn’t confirm his death until Sunday.

The raid also resulted in the deaths of several other high ranking leaders of ISIS-K, the terror group’s regional branch, and 35 ISIS fighters. Two American soldiers died in the attack, perhaps from friendly fire, the Pentagon said.

“This is the second ISIS-K emir we have killed in nine months, along with dozens of their leaders and hundreds of their fighters,” said General John Nicholson, Commander US Forces – Afghanistan. “For more than two years, ISIS-K has waged a barbaric campaign of death, torture and violence against the Afghan people, especially those in southern Nangarhar.”

In a series of Tweets on Sunday, President Ashraf Ghani’s Office confirmed Hasib was killed in the attack.

“He was responsible for ordering the attack on the 400-bed hospital in Kabul, kidnapped girls and beheaded elders in front of their families,” the President’s office said.

The March 8 attack on the hospital, carried out by gunmen disguised as medical personnel, left 30 people dead before Afghan security forces killed the attackers.

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Defense Department identifies Navy SEAL killed in Somalia

A Navy SEAL who was killed in an operation against terrorist group al-Shabaab in Somalia earlier this week has been identified by the Department of Defense as Kyle Milliken, 38, of Falmouth, Maine.

Milliken, a senior chief special warfare operator, was killed Thursday in a remote area of Somalia 40 miles west of Mogadishu when he and other troops came under small-arms fire.

Milliken was a member of SEAL Team Six, a defense official confirmed to CNN. The elite special operations unit, which led the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, was on a scheduled deployment to East Africa for training and carrying out counterterrorism missions. The target in Somalia was a local al-Shabaab leader who had been involved in planning attacks against facilities used by US and African forces in Somalia.

Milliken was on a mission advising Somali National Army forces.

“Senior Chief Kyle Milliken embodied the warrior spirit and toughness infused in our very best Navy SEALs,” Rear Adm. Timothy Szymanski, commander of the Naval Special Warfare Command, said in a statement. “We grieve his death, but we celebrate his life and many accomplishments. He is irreplaceable as a husband, father, son, friend and teammate — and our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and teammates.”

Two other military service members were wounded in the operation, including an interpreter who was also a US citizen, a US defense official told CNN.

A US military official confirmed that this is the first US service member killed in action in Somalia since 1993, when two UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters were shot down and 18 American soldiers were killed in the Battle for Mogadishu.

The US troops were part of a US military program to advise and assist Somali ground forces. The mission was not part of the stepped-up effort in Somalia to conduct airstrikes and ground missions against terror targets.

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