Security authorities announced that they arrested a US soldier on charges of terrorism after posts he made online about blowing up New York City’s 9/11 Memorial and attacking US soldiers stationed in the Middle East.
A spokesperson for the Manhattan federal prosecutors, Nicholas Biase, confirmed that Cole James Bridges, 20, originally from Stow, Ohio was apprehended on charges of links with the Islamic State terrorist group. Bridges were also charged with the attempted murder of a fellow soldier.
Bridges also go by the name Cole Gonzales and is a private first class with the Third Infantry Division stationed in Fort Stewart, Georgia.
According to Biase, Bridges had been in communication online with what he supposed was the Islamic State. Unknown to him, he was chatting with an undercover federal agent. Bridges is well-informed on tactics and provided counsel on the best approach to attacking the memorial and other targeted locations in New York City.
Bridges were said to have been indoctrinated into extremist Islamic ideologies when he began watching online videos in September 2019. He pledged his allegiance to ISIS on social media within that period. He offered to provide US Army training materials and tactics to ISIS to help them overcome US Special Forces and kill American soldiers, NBC News reports.
Bridges bid his time before communicating with what he believed was an ISIS representative in October 2020. He bared all to the agent, expressing his frustrations with the US army and how he could help ISIS defeat American soldiers. They communicated using an encrypted messaging app.
Bridges offered warnings to the ISIS rep, detailing how they should go about planning operations. He warned the fighters never to communicate their plans over the phone or through messages. He said, although he won’t be physically involved in whatever attacks that were planned, he was there to offer the much-required advice, asking the rep to contact him at any given point.
Bridges were asked the best way to carry out an attack. He responded by saying that ISIS should strike at the heart of the enemy since that would make a statement, sending a clear message to the American leaders.
He had offered an in-person meeting with the ISIS rep in New York City. In November, the chats delved into targets, with the agent sending him pictures of government buildings in the New York metro while complaining that it would be difficult carrying at attack since those buildings were heavily guarded.
Bridges asked the rep to choose his targets carefully and asked if there were other targets in mind. It was then that the 9/11 memorial was included among targeted sites. Warnings were sent to the head of the 9/11 memorial, asking that the security of the place be beefed up at all times.
In December, the subject line changed to the Middle East. Bridges gave details on how ISIS fighters could attack US installations in the Middle East, including how to read satellite images, positioning, and weapons handling.
He also advised on how ISIS fighters could protect their camps against attack by US soldiers, including wiring buildings with explosives. He sent across footage of himself with an ISIS flag and pledged support for the group. His Facebook page showed evidence of his sympathy for ISIS.
Bridges could be sentenced to 20 years in prison on each of his felony charges. He is expected to be arraigned in court on Thursday, according to the authorities. It is yet to be established if an attorney was representing him. The authorities lamented what they described as Bridges’ act of betrayal to the country.