A 3rd ID soldier was arrested Tuesday on federal terrorism charges alleging he attempted to provide support to the group ISIS and murder U.S. military service members.
Private First Class Cole James Bridges, a/k/a “Cole Gonzales," 20, of Stowe, Ohio, stationed at Fort Stewart, is in custody and will appear in court on Jan. 21, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney's Office..
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said, “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. 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."
Assistant Attorney General John C. Demers added, “Bridges is charged with giving military advice and guidance on how to kill fellow soldiers to individuals he thought were part of ISIS. 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."
According to the criminal complaint charging Bridges, which was unsealed in Manhattan federal court, "Bridges joined the U.S. Army in September 2019, and was assigned as a cavalry scout in the 3rd Infantry Division based in Fort Stewart, Georgia. Beginning in at least 2019, Bridges began researching and consuming online propaganda promoting jihadists and their violent ideology. Bridges also expressed his support for the Islamic State of Iraq and alSham (“ISIS”) and jihad on social media."
The complaint continues, "In or about October 2020, Bridges began communicating with an FBI online covert employee (the “OCE”), who was posing as an ISIS supporter in contact with ISIS fighters in the Middle East. During these communications, Bridges expressed his frustration with the U.S. military and his desire to aid ISIS. Bridges then 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. Bridges also provided the OCE with portions of a U.S. Army training manual and guidance about military combat tactics, for use by ISIS. In or about December 2020, Bridges began to supply the OCE with instructions for the purported ISIS fighters on how to attack U.S. forces in the Middle East."
Among other things, the complaint alleges, "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. Then, in January 2021, Bridges provided the OCE with a video of himself in body armor standing before a flag often used by ISIS fighters and making a gesture symbolic of support for ISIS. Approximately a week later, Bridges sent a second video in which Bridges, using a voice manipulator, narrated a propaganda speech in support of the anticipated ambush by ISIS on U.S. troops."
Bridges is charged in the complaint with (1) attempting to provide material support to ISIS, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2339B, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison; and (2) attempting to murder U.S. military service members, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1114, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.