US army soldier plotted with neo-Nazi group to ambush his own unit, Justice Department says

22-year-old private admitted planning with violent occultist group for ‘mass casualty’ attack, prosecutors say

Alex Woodward
New York
Tuesday 23 June 2020 00:40 BST
US troops in Kapisa Province, Afghanistan
US troops in Kapisa Province, Afghanistan (EPA)

Federal prosecutors in New York announced the arrest of a US Army solider charged with planning a "murderous ambush" against his own unit with help from neo-Nazi occultists as part of a "hate-fuelled" terror attack.

The 22-year-old Army private — who is alleged to have sent sensitive information about his unit to violent racists in the Order of the Nine Angles — admitted his role in plotting the attack and "described his conduct as tantamount to treason," according to prosecutors.

"Ethan Melzer, a private in the US Army, was the enemy within," said acting US attorney Audrey Strauss, who replaced outgoing US attorney Geoffrey Berman following his resignation under pressure from Donald Trump's administration. The indictment marks her first announcement since taking the role.

Mr Melzer is charged with conspiring and attempting to murder as well as providing and attempting to provide material support to terrorists, among other charges. He faces life in prison, if convicted.

He joined the US Army in 2018 and was involved with the Order in 2019, according to prosecutors. The UK-based Order, which lionises Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich as well as Osama Bin Laden, promotes violence to usher in a "Satanic empire" through the destruction of western society, according to antifascist advocacy group Hope Not Hate.

Mr Melzer "consumed propaganda from multiple extremist groups" including Isis, coordinated with Order members through encrypted messaging apps, and planned a "jihadi attack" to cause a "mass casualty" event while describing his "willingness to die", prosecutors said.

"Who gives a f***," he wrote in messages to Order members, according to a federal indictment. "It would be another war ... I would've died successfully ... Another 10-year war in the Middle East would definitely leave a mark."

In May, he sent messages to a suspected member of al Qaeda, and described deployment information including travel, size, locations and surveillance and defences, prosecutors said. The alleged plot was discovered later that month and he was arrested on 10 June.

Mr Melzer was influence by a "diabolical cocktail of ideologies laced with hate and violence," Assistant Attorney General John C Demers said in a statement.

Organisations studying the movements of extremist hate groups have linked the Order to other neo-Nazi groups like the Base and Atomwaffen, whose members have also been targeted by federal prosecutors.

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