A photo found in Ethan Melzer's iCloud account that was included in the criminal complaint shows a knife, a neo-Nazi book, a skull mask and a U.S. Army beret. Photo courtesy of U.S. Attorney' Office.
June 23 (UPI) -- A U.S. Army private has confessed to planning a terrorist attack with a satanic neo-Nazi group to kill as many members of his unit while deployed overseas, prosecutors said.
Ethan Phelan Melzer, 22, has been charged in a 19-page indictment unsealed Monday with a slew of terrorism offenses for sharing sensitive information about his unit with members of the Order of the Nine Angels that prosecutors described as "an occult-based neo-Nazi and racially motivated violent extremist group."
"Ethan Melzer, a private in the U.S. Army, was the enemy within," Acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Audrey Strauss said in a statement. "Melzer allegedly attempted to orchestrate a murderous ambush on his own unit by unlawfully revealing its location, strength and armaments to a neo-Nazi, anarchist, white supremacist group."
The Louisville, Ky., native was arrested June 10 after his plot was thwarted by the Federal Bureau of investigation and the U.S. Army in late May, prosecutors said in a statement, stating Melzer's plan was fueled by "a diabolical cocktail of ideologies laced with hate and violence."
"Our women and men in uniform risk their lives for our country, but they should never face such peril at the hands of one of their own," said Assistant Attorney General John C. Demers.
According to the unsealed indictment, Melzer joined the Army in 2018 and joined O9A the year after.
Prior to planning the attack, Melzer consumed propaganda from O9A and the Islamic State as well as other groups, prosecutors said, adding they found in his iCloud account an IS-issued text that describes attacks and killings of U.S. personnel.
After being told in April that his unit was to deploy overseas, he used an encrypted message application to provide information to members of O9A and RapeWaffen Division, a U.S. neo-Nazi terrorist network that follows O9A philosophy, "to solicit assistance for a mass casualty attack on his U.S. Army unit once it deployed to Turkey," the unsealed complaint said.
In late May, he transmitted information including his unit's size, anticipated travel routes, weaponry and defensive capabilities.
Melzer and his co-conspirators planned what they called a "jihadi attack" with the objective of creating "mascal," meaning mass casualties, with the purpose of starting another war in the Middle East.
During a late-May interview, Melzer confessed to his role in the plot and declared himself to be "a traitor against the United States whose conduct was tantamount to treason," prosecutors said.
Melzer has been charged with conspiring and attempting to murder U.S. nationals, conspiring to and attempting to murder military service members, providing and attempting to provide material support to terrorists and conspiring to murder and maim in a foreign country and faces life in prison if convicted.
"Melzer declared himself to be a traitor against the United States and described his own conduct as tantamount to treason -- we agree," said FBI Assistant Director William F. Sweeney, Jr. "He turned his back on his country and his unit while aligning himself with members of the neo-Nazi group O9A. Today, he is in custody and facing a lifetime of service -- behind bars -- which is appropriate given the severity of the conduct we allege today."