Fort Stewart, GA – An active-duty U.S. Army soldier has been arrested on terrorism charges for allegedly plotting to target a New York City landmark and American troops overseas with someone he believed was a member of ISIS.
U.S. Army Private First Class Cole James Bridges, who was stationed at Fort Stewart and is also known by the alias of Cole Gonzales, was arrested by Army Counterintelligence and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents on Tuesday, the New York U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a press release later that day.
Bridges, 20, has been charged with attempting to murder U.S. military service members and attempting to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization, according to the press release.
“Bridges is charged with giving military advice and guidance on how to kill fellow soldiers to individuals he thought were part of ISIS,” Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Demers said in the press release.
“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,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss added. “Our troops risk their lives for our country, but they should never face such peril at the hands of one of their own.”
According to the criminal complaint unsealed in Manhattan federal court on Tuesday, the Ohio native was assigned as a 3rd Infantry Division calvary scout after he joined the U.S. Army in September of 2019.
“Beginning in at least 2019, BRIDGES began researching and consuming online propaganda promoting jihadists and their violent ideology,” according to the press release. “BRIDGES also expressed his support for the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (“ISIS”) and jihad on social media.”
He allegedly began communicating with an undercover FBI employee posing as an ISIS supporter in October of 2020, investigators said.
The undercover employee claimed to be in contact with ISIS fighters in the Middle East.
Bridges allegedly shared that he was frustrated with the U.S. military and that he wanted to “aid ISIS,” so he started giving guidance and training to the purported ISIS fighters he believed were planning attacks, according to the press release.
He has also been accused of recommending potential targets in New York City, to include the 9/11 Memorial, as well as providing the undercover employee with details about military combat tactics and portions of a U.S. Army training manual so ISIS could study them.
Bridges started giving the undercover employee advice on how to best “attack U.S. forces in the Middle East,” to pass onto the purported ISIS fighters in December of 2020, according to the press release.
He allegedly drew diagrams of different military maneuvers for the enemy in an attempt to help ISIS to “maximize the lethality of attacks on U.S. troops,” investigators said.
Bridges has been accused of giving advice on how to best fortify ISIS encampments “to repel an attack by U.S. Special Forces, including by wiring certain buildings with explosives to kill the U.S. troops,” according to the press release.
In January, the Army soldier allegedly made two videos and passed them on to the undercover FBI employee.
One showed him standing in front of an ISIS flag dressed in body armor while “making a gesture symbolic of support for ISIS,” while the other involved him narrating a “propaganda speech” supporting the ambush attack on U.S. troops he believed ISIS was about to carry out, according to investigators.
Bridges used a “voice manipulator” during the propaganda video, according to investigators.
“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,” FBI Assistant Director William Sweeney said in the press release. “Fortunately, the person with whom he communicated was an FBI employee, and we were able to prevent his evil desires from coming to fruition.”
Strauss credited the FBI’s New York Joint Terrorism Task Force for their “outstanding efforts” throughout the investigation, as well as a slew of military and FBI offices.
The task force is comprised of members from over 50 local, state, and federal agencies, she said.
Bridges faces up to 20 years in prison on each count if he is convicted.