Father of Marine killed in Afghanistan arrested at State of the Union

by Tommy Grant

The father of a Marine killed in a Kabul airport suicide bombing in the final days of the American military deployment in Afghanistan was thrown out of Thursday night’s State of the Union speech after attempting to shout down the president during his national remarks.

Steve Nikoui, the invited guest of Rep. Brian Mast, R-Fla., was escorted out of the House chamber after screaming “Abbey Gate” and “Marines” multiple times at President Joe Biden as he spoke about violent crime in America. Biden glanced briefly at Nikoui before Capitol Hill security forced him out of the chamber.

The New York Times reported that Nikoui was arrested and charged with a misdemeanor for disrupting the speech.

Nikoui’s son, Lance Cpl. Kareem Nikoui, was one of 13 service members killed in the August 2021 attack, along with hundreds of Afghan civilians, when a suicide bomber attacked the Abbey Gate of Hamid Karzai International Airport. Defense Department officials blamed the attack on the Islamic State group’s Afghanistan affiliate.

Republican lawmakers and family members of several of the service members killed have blamed Biden for the deaths, insisting they came as a result of the rushed departure of U.S. military forces from the country.

Mast was one of several Republican lawmakers to invite family members of the deceased troops to the speech. The Republican lawmaker backed Nikoui’s outburst in a series of social media posts after the incident.

“For the last three SOTU speeches, Joe Biden REFUSED to say the names of the 13 U.S. [service members] who were killed by his disastrous Afghanistan withdrawal,” he wrote. “I couldn’t support this effort more.”

Nikoui has been an outspoken critic of the administration in the past. Several Republican lawmakers also interrupted Biden during his address, though none were removed from the chamber.

The misdemeanor charge typically carries a small fine and no jail time.

Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.

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