U.S. Soldier Who Kissed ISIS Flag Pleads Not Guilty to Supporting Militant Group

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This photograph with a redacted date was entered in federal court as an exhibit to support the government's motion to keep U.S. Army Sergeant Ikaika Erik Kang in detention without bond. The photo is said to show Kang holding the ISIS flag after pledging allegiance to the militant group. Reuters/Court Handout

A U.S. Army soldier accused of supporting the Islamic State group (ISIS) who kissed the organization’s flag out of reverence for the militants has pleaded not guilty to his charges.

Army Sergeant Ikaika Erik Kang was indicted last week on four counts of attempting to provide material support to ISIS. If found guilty, he could spend 80 years behind bars—20 years for each count. He has been held in federal custody in Honolulu since his arrest July 8, Hawaii News Now reported.

The prosecution against the 34-year-old alleges he pledged allegiance to ISIS and tried to pass classified military information to undercover agents he believed were members of the group. 

Related: ISIS in Hawaii: U.S. soldier pledged allegiance to Baghdadi, wanted to 'Kill Bunch of People'

Kang is said to have told one of the FBI agents involved in the sting that it was his desire to kill “a bunch of people.”

He pledged allegiance to ISIS and its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, in Honolulu, according to a court affidavit, when he met an undercover agent whom he believed to be an ISIS member. 

Kang made combat videos for the group with the agent and helped him buy a drone intended to be sent to ISIS to help its fighters evade U.S. tank teams. He believed drones would help the group’s fighters find “tank positions and avenues for escape” in their besieged areas of control in Iraq and Syria.

The soldier was also in possession of two firearms, an assault rifle and a handgun, authorities say. He told the agent he wanted to kill many people, according to the affidavit.

The original complaint against Kang also alleges he had an interest in fighting overseas for ISIS and offered the men he believed to be militants military training. A statement from the Army seen by NBC at the time of his arrest suggests that Kang is believed to have been working alone

The soldier’s attorney said that while competent to stand trial, Kang suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder following multiple deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan. A trial date has been set for September 19.

Kang graduated from Henry J. Kaiser High School in Hawaii in 2001 and enlisted in the Army in the months following the 9/11 attacks by Al-Qaeda.

His father, Clifford, has expressed his dismay at the charges against his son. “I’m just in shock. He’s a great kid. He’s not real outgoing, he’s never been, but neither was I,” Kang told Hawaii News Now. “But other than that, he’s a great kid, a normal kid who grew up in Waimanalo.”

According to a report from The Washington Postbefore Kang’s arrest, 111 people in the U.S were arrested by federal prosecutors due to suspected links to ISIS, with 65 of those people having been convicted for the ties.

Of the cases in the U.S., most of the people arrested were in New York, where there are 14 cases pending and six people who have been convicted for their links to ISIS.

The majority of people arrested due to alleged links to ISIS were men, with those arrested having an average age of 27.

According to the Post, the FBI said that in some cases it has intercepted plots where the intended targets were military personnel or law enforcement agents.