US soldier arrested for allegedly advising Islamic State on attacks

Pfc. Cole James Bridges' arrest comes amid renewed scrutiny on extremism in the military.

al-monitor US National Guard soldiers are seen in silhouette as they keep guard in front of the US Capitol and near the Washington Monument in Washington, DC, on Jan. 19, 2021 Photo by ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP via Getty Images.

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new york city, middle east, us troops, us army, fbi, islamic state

Jan 20, 2021

An American soldier was arrested yesterday by the FBI and the US Army for allegedly attempting to provide tactical advice to help the Islamic State (IS) conduct attacks on New York City and on US forces in the Middle East.

Prosecutors allege that Pfc. Cole James Bridges of the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division offered tips to an undercover FBI informant on how to kill US troops in the Middle East and said that he would side with the jihadists if they ever attacked his unit while deployed, according to a criminal complaint filed in New York.

Investigators also allege he discussed with the informant potential targets for attack in New York City, including bridges, federal buildings and the Sept. 11 memorial in Manhattan.

The complaint noted that Bridges later appeared to have second thoughts about supporting an attack inside the United States but allegedly continued to provide details of American infantry tactics to help his supposed IS contacts kill his fellow troops abroad. He also sent a video of himself posing with a black flag associated with Sunni jihadism and raising his index finger in a gesture common among IS supporters.

Bridges, also known as Cole Gonzales, faces up to 40 years in prison if convicted.

His arrest comes amid renewed scrutiny of the US military over right-wing extremism within its ranks since a right-wing mob attacked the Capitol on Jan. 6 in support of former President Donald Trump. Twelve National Guard personnel were removed from duty protecting the Capitol ahead of Inauguration Day over concerns of extremist affiliations after being vetted by the FBI, The Associated Press reported yesterday.

Former acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller directed Pentagon officials to clamp down on signs of extremist affiliation and activities in the military, officials said last week.

In June, the FBI helped the Army nab 22-year-old Pvt. Ethan Melzer, who allegedly plotted with other members of the occult Order of Nine Angles to recruit local jihadists to attack his unit’s own base during an upcoming deployment to Turkey.

Lloyd Austin, the former head of US Central Command slated to become the first Black defense secretary, spoke clearly in repeatedly condemning right-wing extremism in the military during his Senate confirmation hearing.

“We can never take our hand off the wheel on this,” he told lawmakers on Wednesday.

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