US soldier helped neo-Nazis plan 'mass casualty' attack on own unit in Turkey, feds say

Prosecutors say Ethan Phelan Melzer fed sensitive information about his unit to members of an occult white supremacist organization whose founder once pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda.

al-monitor US soldiers take part in a shooting training exercise in the restive city of Ramadi, Iraq, on Dec. 2, 2004. Photo by AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP via Getty Images.

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Terrorism

Jun 23, 2020

A US Army soldier has been charged with multiple felonies for allegedly helping other members of a neo-Nazi group plan a “mass casualty” attack on his own unit during an upcoming deployment to Turkey.

Prosecutors say 22-year-old Pvt. Ethan Phelan Melzer of Louisville, Kentucky, fed sensitive information about his unit’s “location, movement and security” to members of the Order of the Nine Angles (O9A), an occult white supremacist organization whose founder once pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda. Court documents released Monday allege Melzer joined O9A in 2019 after enlisting in the US Army the previous year.

While deployed in Italy in May, Melzer allegedly invited other members of O9A, including an FBI informant, to plan an attack on a US military installation in Turkey that Melzer’s unit would be guarding during an upcoming deployment.

The soldier and other alleged O9A members communicated via a secure messenger app group chat dubbed “RapeWaffen Divison,” an apparent reference to the neo-Nazi Atomwaffen Division network, which has been tied to a number of murders, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The Order of the Nine Angles is a self-proclaimed satanic network that originated in the United Kingdom. Its publications have promoted pedophilia and the murder of police, judges and other public figures as ways to subvert society, which it says has been corrupted by “Nazarene,” or Judeo-Christian, culture. The group has praised the ideas of Osama bin Laden and Adolf Hitler, describing Nazi Germany as “a burst of Luciferian light … in an otherwise Nazarene, pacified, and boring world,” according to an affidavit filed by US Air Force special agent Faye Stephan of New York’s Joint Terrorism Task Force.

The affidavit, unsealed Monday, alleged Melzer and his co-conspirators shared satellite images of the unspecified US military facility in Turkey and discussed recruiting local jihadist militants to carry out the attack from high ground nearby.

The document alleges Melzer bragged to the group that he “used to be cool with a couple [Islamic State] members who lived in France” and said that a group of just a few dozen fighters “could absolutely reek [sic] havoc” on his unit.

Using the pseudonym “Etil Reggad,” Melzer allegedly discussed his unit’s expected travel routes and told the O9A members that his fellow soldiers would be “essentially crippled” in an attack on the facility because they would not have machine guns, tanks or rocket launchers. He also promised to provide access to his unit’s radio communications in order to facilitate the attack.

The affidavit alleges Melzer intended the incident to “result in the deaths of as many of his fellow service members as possible” in hope of sparking “another war” in the Middle East. He allegedly told the FBI informant he was willing to die in the attack because “another 10-year war in the Middle East would definitely leave a mark.”

Melzer allegedly told his contacts that he was “literally risking [his] literal free life” by divulging the information and was “expecting results.”

Investigators said Melzer waived his Miranda rights in a May 30 interview with the FBI and US military and confessed his involvement in the plot, allegedly describing himself as a traitor.

Photos obtained by prosecutors from an iCloud account said to belong to Melzer revealed IS propaganda that detailed the killing of Western military personnel. Another photo featured what appeared to be an O9A publication, a US Army beret and a ski mask bearing a white skull similar to masks featured in propaganda videos by groups like Atomwaffen Division.

Melzer faces life in prison on charges of conspiracy to commit and attempted murder of US military personnel and attempting to provide material support for terrorism, among other charges.

The indictment is the latest case of right-wing militancy within the US armed forces, but is an exceptionally rare case of a member of the military inviting foreign attack on his or her own unit.

Two former and one current US service members were indicted by federal prosecutors in June for plotting to firebomb a Las Vegas protest organized in response to the death of George Floyd at the hands of police in May. The US Navy expelled a sailor suspected of recruiting for Atomwaffen Division in March.