US soldier arrested in plot to blow up NYC 9/11 Memorial

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FILE - In this Sept. 11, 2020, file photo, mourners place flowers in the name cut-out of Kyung Hee (Casey) Cho at the National September 11 Memorial and Museum in New York. A U.S. Army soldier was arrested Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021, in Georgia on terrorism charges after he spoke online about plots to blow up New York City's 9/11 Memorial and other landmarks and attack U.S. soldiers in the Middle East, authorities said. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)

NEW YORK – A U.S. Army soldier was arrested Tuesday in Georgia on terrorism charges after he spoke online about plots to blow up New York City's 9/11 Memorial and other landmarks and attack U.S. soldiers in the Middle East, authorities said.

Cole James Bridges of Stow, Ohio, was in custody on charges of attempted material support of a terrorist organization — the Islamic State group — and attempted murder of a military member, said Nicholas Biase, a spokesperson for Manhattan federal prosecutors.

The 20-year-old soldier, also known as Cole Gonzales, was with the Third Infantry Division out of Fort Stewart, Georgia, when he thought he was communicating with the Islamic State online about the terrorism plots, Biase said.

Unbeknownst to Bridges, an FBI employee was in on the chat as Bridges provided detailed instructions on tactics and manuals and advice about attacking the memorial and other targets in New York City, Biase said.

“As we allege today, 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," said William F. Sweeney Jr., head of New York City's FBI office.

“Fortunately, the person with whom he communicated was an FBI employee, and we were able to prevent his evil desires from coming to fruition,” Sweeney said in a release.

“Our troops risk their lives for our country, but they should never face such peril at the hands of one of their own,” U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said.

Bridges was scheduled to make an initial appearance in federal court in Augusta, Georgia, on Thursday.