US Soldier Charged With Plotting ‘Mass Casualty’ Attack With Neo-Nazis

An American military convoy in northern Syria in 2019. (AP Photo/Baderkhan Ahmad)

(CN) — Just as his unit planned to deploy to Turkey last month, U.S. Army soldier Ethan Melzer sent an encrypted message to a neo-Nazi with sensitive information about his unit’s size, weaponry, anticipated travel routes, and defensive capabilities. He admitted a week later that those details had been meant to facilitate a “mass-casualty” attack against his comrades.

Those are the explosive allegations of a criminal complaint unsealed on Monday, charging Melzer with supporting terrorism and conspiring to murder U.S. service members.

“You just gotta understand that currently I am risking my literal free life to give you all this,” Melzer allegedly wrote in a May 23 encrypted message, adding that he was “expecting results.”

Melzer sent the message to a confidential source and a member of Order of the Nine Angles, an occult-based neo-Nazi group, prosecutors say.

“As alleged, Ethan Melzer, a private in the U.S. Army, was the enemy within,” Audrey Strauss, making her first announcement of a criminal case as Acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in a statement.

“Melzer allegedly attempted to orchestrate a murderous ambush on his own unit by unlawfully revealing its location, strength, and armaments to a neo-Nazi, anarchist, white supremacist group,” Strauss added. “Melzer allegedly provided this potentially deadly information intending that it be conveyed to jihadist terrorists.”

In turn, Melzer hoped the ensuing attacks would spark war in Muslim-majority countries, court documents suggest.

“The after effects of a convoy getting attacked would cover it,” Melzer wrote, according to the complaint. “It would be another war … I would’ve died successfully … Cause if another 10 year war in the Middle East would definitely leave a mark.” 

The Atomwaffen Division, a far-right terrorist group founded in the United States, expresses support for methods of groups like al-Qaida and the Islamic State group despite a hatred of Muslims. The group praised Pulse shooter Omar Mateen’s massacre in a gay nightclub.

Prosecutors say that Melzer joined the chatroom of an offshoot of this group: a RapeWaffen Division chat channel called the Order of the 9 Rapes.

A photo from an iCloud account associated with Ethan Melzer.

A U.S. Air Force investigator reviewing Melzer’s iCloud account reported finding an image titled “HARVEST OF THE SOLDIERS” listing death counts from attacks by the Islamic State group.

Other photographs depicted neo-Nazi insignia and literature, such as “The Joy of the Sinister: The Traditional Satanism of the Order of the Nine Angles” and a document called “The Alchemy of Hate,” featuring a chapter titled “Adolf Hitler as Dark God.”

The investigator wrote that Melzer freely confessed to the plot.

“Melzer was prepared to die to facilitate an attack on the Unit, believed his actions were treasonous, and considered himself to be a traitor,” the criminal complaint states.

Facing possible life imprisonment, Melzer has been indicted with six charges, including material support for terrorism and attempting to murder U.S. service members and nationals.

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