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U.S. Army private discussed support for ISIS, attack on 9/11 memorial, federal prosecutors say

The 20-year-old Ohio native began researching radical Islamic propaganda quickly after he joined the army in 2019

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9/11 memorial in New York City
9/11 memorial in New York City
(Spencer Platt / Getty Images)
Updated: January 20, 2021 - 10:17am

A U.S. soldier shared instructions for killing troops stationed in the Middle East and discussed targets for potential terror attacks with an individual he believed was a member of the Islamic State, according to federal prosecutors.

The soldier, Cole James Bridges, 20, an Army private originally from Ohio, who was stationed in Germany last fall, discussed the 9/11 memorial and museum in lower Manhattan, according to a criminal complaint. Instead of a member of ISIS, however, Bridges was actually communication with an undercover FBI agent, authorities said.

Bridges was arrested on Tuesday in Georgia, where he was stationed as a cavalry scout in the 3rd Infantry Division at Fort Stewart. He has been charged with attempting to provide material support to members of ISIS, in addition to attempted murder of U.S. military service members. 

Following his enlistment in 2019, Bridges began researching Muslim extremist groups, including information promoting jihadists and ISIS. In October of 2020, Bridges began communication with the undercover FBI agent, telling her that he wishes to help with ISIS's mission. 

During their communication, the FBI agent asked Bridges what he would do should his unit be attacked by ISIS fighters. "I would probably go with the brothers," replied the soldier. "I can teach them ways of fighting, combat techniques, movements, formation," he told the agent.

According to the criminal complaint, the soldier sent the FBI agent pictures of federal, local, and foreign government buildings around New York City, saying New York City buildings are extremely heavily guarded, which could make an "operation" a trickier thing to carry out. 

"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," said the Manhattan U.S. attorney, Audrey Strauss. Bridges is expected in court in Georgia on Thursday, and will be sent to Manhattan for trial. 

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