A U.S. Army soldier was arrested Tuesday for allegedly plotting to blow up the 9/11 Memorial in New York City.
Cole James Bridges, 20, spoke to an FBI employee who was posing as someone else about a plan to blow up the memorial, according to a criminal complaint.
Bridges also spoke with the employee, who posed as a female sympathizer to the terror group ISIS, about how to attack and kill U.S. soldiers in the Middle East.
Asked by the FBI covert employee last year how he managed to join the military given his contacts with ISIS, Bridges responded: “Mm nobody knew I had contacts besides my family but it was never confirmed. They were suspicious. Even still because I had homeland security show up to my work before the army. And today this Investigation department came to the camp.” He then sent a picture of a flag often used by jihadists, including ISIS.
Bridges later offered over an unspecified messaging application to give advice on combat and tactics to ISIS members. He and the covert employee (OCE) also discussed a potential attack at the 9/11 Memorial.
“BRIDGES initially stated that he believed that the 9/11 attacks were murder. The OCE replied, ‘Yes I was thinking of when the diplomats came though, the heads of state.’ BRIDGES then wrote ‘a key target’ and ‘that could honestly be a sniper kill and then getting out quietly for a second attack,'” according to the complaint.
Bridges at one point said he supported Hamas for their fighting against Israel Defense Forces and ISIS for “their efforts to establish a khilafah and their way of structuring it and making a system.” Khilafah is another word for caliphate, or the effort to take control of countries and establish a system of laws based on, in many cases, a radical interpretation of Islam.
Bridges, who went online by the moniker Cole Gonzales, was arrested in Georgia. He was part of the Third Infantry Division out of Fort Stewart. Bridges is from Stow, Ohio.
“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. Our troops risk their lives for our country, but they should never face such peril at the hands of one of their own,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said in a statement.
“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. 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 a lengthy prison sentence,” added FBI Assistant Director William Sweeney Jr.
Bridges faces up to 40 years in prison if convicted of one count of attempting to provide material support to ISIS and one count of attempting to murder U.S. military service members. Bridges couldn’t be reached and he did not have a lawyer listed.