An active-duty US Army soldier was arrested Tuesday morning in Georgia on terrorism charges after he spoke online with under an undercover FBI agent he thought was a member of ISIS about plots to blow up New York City’s 9/11 Memorial and attack service members in the Middle East, authorities said.
Cole James Bridges of Stow, Ohio, was in federal custody on charges of attempted material support of a terrorist organization — the Islamic State group — and attempted murder of a military member, said Nicholas Biase, a spokesperson for Manhattan federal prosecutors.
The 20-year-old private first class in the US Army, also known as Cole Gonzales, was with the Third Infantry Division out of Fort Stewart, Georgia, when he thought he was communicating with ISIS online about the terrorism plots, Biase said.
Federal agents on Tuesday arrest Pfc Cole James Bridges, 20, aka, Cole Gonzales, for allegedly trying to help ISIS attack targets in New York City. A criminal complaint shows screenshots of Bridges' social media page (pictured above)
According to the complaint, just months after joining the US Army in 2019, Bridges began researching online propaganda promoting jihadists
Bridges allegedly provided the bogus ISIS contact with detailed instructions on tactics and manuals and advice about attacking the 9/11 Memorial in New York City
Unbeknownst to Bridges, a federal agent was in on the chat as Bridges provided detailed instructions on tactics and manuals and advice about attacking the memorial and other targets in New York City, Biase said.
'As we allege today, Bridges, a private in the U.S. Army, betrayed our country and his unit when he plotted with someone he believed was an ISIS sympathizer to help ISIS attack and kill U.S. soldiers in the Middle East,' said William Sweeney Jr., head of New York City’s FBI office.
A message that was purportedly sent by Bridges to the undercover agent showed a flag often used by ISIS fighters
'Fortunately, the person with whom he communicated was an FBI employee, and we were able to prevent his evil desires from coming to fruition,' Sweeney said in a release.
According to the criminal complaint charging Bridges, which was unsealed on Tuesday in Manhattan federal court, the Ohio resident joined the US Army in September 2019 and was assigned as a cavalry scout at Fort Stewart.
Just months later, Bridges allegedly began researching online propaganda promoting jihadists, and expressed his support for ISIS and jihad on social media.
In October 2020, Bridges began communicating with the undercover FBI agent posing as an ISIS supporter in contact with ISIS fighters in the Middle East.
During these exchanges, according to the Justice Department, Bridges 'expressed his frustration with the U.S. military and his desire to aid ISIS.'
Then last month, Bridges allegedly began to supply the undercover agent with instructions for purported ISIS fighters on how to attack US forces serving in the Middle East, and went so far as to diagram specific military maneuvers to maximize the lethality of the attacks.
Bridges allegedly sent his contact videos showing himself in a tactical mask and body armor, and standing in front of the ISIS flag while making a gesture symbolic of support for the terrorist organization
Bridges 'further provided advice about the best way to fortify an ISIS encampment to repel an attack by U.S. Special Forces, including by wiring certain buildings with explosives to kill the U.S. troops,' according to the Justice Department.
In the weeks before his arrest, Bridges sent the bogus ISIS supporter video of himself in body armor standing before a flag often used by ISIS fighters and making a gesture symbolic of support for the terrorist organization.
He later sent a second video in which he used a voice manipulator to narrate a propaganda speech in support of the anticipated ambush by ISIS on US troops, according to the federal prosecutors.
'Our troops risk their lives for our country, but they should never face such peril at the hands of one of their own,' US Attorney Audrey Strauss said.
Bridges was scheduled to make an initial appearance in federal court in Georgia on Thursday.
If convicted of all the charges against him, Bridges could face up to 40 years in prison.