Federal officials on Tuesday arrested a “private first class in the US Army”, Cole James Bridges, on charges of terrorism, providing training and guidance to purported ISIS fighters and advising about potential targets in New York such as the 9/11 memorial.
Mr Bridges was arrested for his alleged effort in assisting Isis in attacking and killing US soldiers stationed in the Middle East, for attempting to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organisation, and attempting to murder US military service members, a statement by the justice department said.
“Fortunately, the person with whom he communicated was an FBI employee, and we were able to prevent his evil desires from coming to fruition,” said William F Sweeney Jr, FBI’s assistant director.
The arrest was announced on Tuesday by FBI officials, US Army’s counterintelligence, New York Police Department (NYPD), the US attorney for the southern district of New York and the assistant attorney general for national security.
According to the criminal complaint filed against Mr Bridges, 20, of Stow, Ohio, that was unsealed in Manhattan federal court on Tuesday, he joined the US Army in September 2019 and was assigned as a cavalry scout in an infantry division in Georgia.
Soon after, he began researching and consuming online propaganda promoting jihadists and expressed support for the Isis on social media.
In October 2020, Mr Bridges began communicating with an FBI online covert employee (OCE), who was posing as an Isis supporter in contact with Isis fighters in the Middle East, the complaint revealed.
During these communications, Mr Bridges expressed his frustration with the US military and his desire to aid the Isis, according to the complaint. Bridges then allegedly “provided training and guidance to purported Isis fighters who were planning attacks, including advice about potential targets in New York City, such as the 9/11 memorial,” the complaint stated.
He also provided the OCE with portions of a US army training manual and guidance about military combat tactics, for use by Isis, it said.
In December 2020, he supplied the OCE with instructions for purported Isis fighters on how to attack the US forces in the Middle East and shared “specific military manoeuvres intended to help Isis fighters maximise the lethality of attacks on US troops.”
Mr Bridges also provided advice about the “best way to fortify an Isis encampment to repel an attack by US Special Forces, including by wiring certain buildings with explosives to kill the US troops.”
“Then, in January 2021, Bridges provided the OCE with a video of himself in body armour standing before a flag often used by Isis fighters and making a gesture symbolic of support for Isis,” said the complaint.
It highlights that within a week of the first video, Mr Bridges sent a second video in which he while “using a voice manipulator, narrated a propaganda speech in support of the anticipated ambush by Isis on US troops."
Mr Bridges will now be presented in the US district court for the Southern district of Georgia on 21 January.