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12th Jul 2016

A US veteran has challenged ISIS to a Pokemon Go battle

This game really is everywhere.

Matt Tate

Everyone is playing Pokemon Go at the moment, but not many people can say they’ve taken a break from military duties on the front line in Iraq to catch themselves a Squirtle.

US Veteran Louis Park found viral fame over the weekend when he posted a picture of himself playing the augmented reality smartphone game while volunteering alongside Dwehk Nawsha, a local group of Christian Assyrians fighting against ISIS. The militia has had a number of Western volunteers join its ranks in recent years

The screenshot posted to his Facebook page shows a Squirtle Pokemon pop up just to the right of Park’s mounted gun, and it’s captioned: “Just caught my first Pokémon on the Mosul front line by Teleskuf. Daesh, come challenge me to a Pokémon battle. Mortars are for pussies.” He’s since made the post private after it was shared all over the world.

Park, a former Marine and security contractor who headed to Iraq to volunteer in the ongoing fight against ISIS in 2015, told The Verge that he’d downloaded the app during a visit back home to the US. He’d seen his friends playing the game and as a huge Pokemon fan decided he’d get involved too.

A combination of poor mobile signal and lack of free time means he hasn’t been able to play much of the game, but he said it works fine most of the time.

Speaking to the website over Facebook Messenger, the soldier said: “On the front line I was only able to catch the starters, but here in Dohuk they’ve got gyms and pokéstops and everything.”

Dokuk, part of Iraqi Kurdistan, is a town with a population of around 350,000, under an hour’s drive from the front line. Park said he’d talked to a market stall owner who plays the game and makes use of the various wi-fi stops around town.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, he’s yet to encounter anyone else catching Pokemon on the front line, but explained that loading up the game in the middle of a war zone isn’t as dangerous a distraction as some people might suspect.

“Most of the days are boring,” he said. “You kind of sit there and you guard your post and stand by in case anything happens. [ISIS] shoot mortars just about every other day, but we’ve only had a couple of actual attacks.”

In a status posted to his Facebook page after blocking the original image from public viewing, Park said that he’d rather the attention his picture received was directed towards the numerous groups currently fighting ISIS, and while he’s a self-confessed Pokemon nut, he wants the real discussion to be about them.

“People know I’m not here for myself and I believe in what I do. This is no joke. I’ll watch what i post. I don’t need the coverage, the Kurds and Assyrians do.

“I just made the picture post to be cheeky. I love Pokemon. Woop de doo.

“If you see the articles, comment about the peshmerga And Dwehk.

“I’ll try to use this to draw support for them best I can. I’d ask journalists to do the same.”


ISIS,Pokemon Go