PFC Cole James Bridges, aka Cole Gonzales, was arrested Tuesday on Terrorism charges, according to an announcement by the US Attorney’s office. He is charged with allegedly attempting to provide material support to ISIS, and attempting to murder U.S. military service members. Each of the charges carry a possible sentence of 20 years in prison. (Military Times)
Cole James Bridges was assigned to the 3rd Infantry Division at Fort Stewart, Georgia. The command is “cooperating fully with the FBI,” according to Stripes, but stated any further information would have to come from the Pentagon.
The US Attorney wrote:
BRIDGES joined the U.S. Army in approximately 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 al-Sham (“ISIS”) and jihad on social media. 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, 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.US Attorney’s Office, Southern District of NY
Bridges is 20 years old. Though he could have had an honorable service, he chose to join the ranks of the enemy. It is fortunate that he was speaking with an FBI employee, not a real ISIS fighter.
The incoming Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin, told the Senate at confirmation hearings on Tuesday that he would work immediately to remove “racists and extremists” from the ranks of the military. Will he remove these kinds of threats, or will this become a witch hunt for something else?
Featured photo: Facebook photo of Cole James Bridges aka Cole Gonzales
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