WASHINGTON — A soldier from Stow has been charged for allegedly trying to help ISIS attack and kill American soldiers in the Middle East and plan an attack in New York City, according to the United States Department of Justice.
Private First Class Cole James Bridges, 20, aka Cole Gonzales, has been charged via criminal complaint for attempting to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization and attempting to murder U.S. military service members, authorities said. He was also charged with attempted murder of U.S. military service members.
"Bridges is charged with giving military advice and guidance on how to kill fellow soldiers to individuals he thought were part of ISIS," said Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers. "This alleged personal and professional betrayal of comrades and country is terrible to contemplate, but fortunately, the FBI was able to identify the threat posed by Bridges, and today's charges are the first step in holding him accountable for his crimes. ISIS ideology continues to infect those who would threaten the nation's security from within and without, and we will continue to fight this threat."
Bridges was arrested Tuesday by the FBI and U.S. Army Counterintelligence officers.
He joined the Army in 2019 and served as a cavalry scout in the 3rd Infantry Division out of Fort Stewart in Georgia.
Authorities say that in 2019, Bridges allegedly started “researching and consuming online propaganda promoting jihadists and their violent ideology.” Later, Bridges made posts on social media supporting the Islamic State of Iraq, ISIS and jihad, according to the department of justice.
In October 2020, authorities say Bridges started talking with an undercover FBI agent who posed online as an ISIS supporter claiming they had contact with associates in the Middle East, authorities 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 FBI Assistant Director in Charge of the New York Office William F. Sweeney Jr. “Fortunately, the person with whom he communicated was an FBI employee, and we were able to prevent his evil desires from coming to fruition. Bridges could have chosen a life of honorable service, but instead he traded it for the possibility of life in prison. This case should serve as a reminder that the FBI’s New York JTTF will never quit in its commitment to protect our Nation from all those who seek to do it harm.”
Bridges allegedly told the FBI in those conversations that he was frustrated with the military and wanted to aid ISIS. As talks continued, Bridges “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,” according to the Department of Justice.
Bridges also allegedly provided the undercover FBI agent with portions of a U.S. Army training manual and guidance on military combat tactics. In December 2020, Bridges then allegedly gave the undercover agent instructions on how to attack U.S. troops in the Middle East.
The DOJ says that “among other things, Bridges diagrammed specific military maneuvers intended to help ISIS fighters maximize the lethality of attacks on U.S. troops. 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.”
Earlier this month, Bridges sent the agent a video of himself wearing body armor and standing in front of a flag often flown by ISIS members. Additionally, the video shows Bridges making a “gesture symbolic of support for ISIS,” authorities said. A week after sending the first video, the DOJ says that Bridges sent a second video, which purportedly shows Bridges narrating a propaganda speech using a voice manipulator for an attack on U.S. troops by ISIS.
“As alleged, Cole Bridges betrayed the oath he swore to defend the United States by attempting to provide ISIS with tactical military advice to ambush and kill his fellow service members,” said U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Audrey Strauss. “Our troops risk their lives for our country, but they should never face such peril at the hands of one of their own. Today, thanks to the efforts of the agents and detectives of the JTTF, and our partners in the Department of Defense, Bridges is in custody and facing federal terrorism charges for his alleged crimes.”
Bridges faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.
News 5 will update this story as we learn more.
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