A United States Army Private First Class has been charged with attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), a designated foreign terrorist group, and attempting to murder U.S. military service members, the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York announced Tuesday.
Both the charges carry a maximum sentence of 20 years imprisonment, a Department of Justice (DOJ) press release stated.
The charged 20-year-old, Cole James Bridges, a Stowe, Ohio native, joined the U.S. Army around Sep. 2019 and began researching and consuming online jihadist propaganda, after which he expressed support for ISIS and jihad on social media, according to the DOJ. (RELATED: At Least 5 People Killed In Multiple Suspected Terror Attacks In Afghanistan)
#BreakingNews U.S. Army Soldier Arrested For Attempting To Assist ISIS To Conduct Deadly Ambush On U.S. Troops— Army Counterintelligence (@Real_ArmyCI) January 19, 2021
U.S. Army Private First Class Cole James Bridges Provided Tactical Guidance in Attempt to Help ISIS to Attack U.S. Forces in the Middle East https://t.co/PmpRyMr6OO
Bridges then began interacting with an undercover Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) employee, posing as an ISIS supporter in touch with ISIS fighters in the Middle East, around Oct. 2020.
During those interactions, he expressed frustration with the U.S. military and his desire to assist ISIS, the DOJ reported.
He also provided the agent sections of an Army training manual and guidance about military combat tactics for ISIS’ use around Dec. 2020, according to the agency.
This included diagrams of particular military maneuvers to help ISIS jihadists maximize the lethality of attacks on U.S. soldiers and advice about the most optimum way ISIS can fortify an ISIS encampment against an attack by U.S. Special Forces.
Bridges furthermore granted training and guidance to “purported” ISIS fighters who were plotting attacks against the U.S., recommending potential targets for the terrorist group in New York City, such as the 9/11 Memorial, according to the DOJ.
FT. STEWART SOLDIER CHARGED IN TERROR PLOT: Authorities say Cole James Bridges, 20, thought he was providing ISIS information to help kill U.S. forces. He didn’t know he was actually communicating with an undercover FBI agent. >>> More: https://t.co/IfsS13701c pic.twitter.com/oPg78NRmvJ— WJCL News (@WJCLNews) January 19, 2021
The FBI employee, who Bridges thought was an ISIS backer, then received Jan. 2021, a video of Bridges in body armor standing before a flag used by ISIS jihadists and making a pro-ISIS gesture, the DOJ reported.
A week later, the agent received another video by Bridges where he, using a voice manipulator, narrated a propaganda speech supporting an anticipated ambush by ISIS on U.S. troops that he attempted to help the group with.
He “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,” FBI Assistant Director William F. Sweeney Jr. said.
“Bridges could have chosen a life of honorable service, but instead he traded it for the possibility of a lengthy prison sentence. 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,” Sweeney Jr. added.