Militia members arrested in plot to kidnap US governor and kill 'tyrants'

FBI says the man behind the plan wanted 200 men to storm the state’s capitol building and take hostages

(FILES) In this file photo taken on September 09, 2020, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer listens as Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden (off camera) speaks at the United Auto Workers Union Headquarters in Warren, Michigan. Six men have been charged as part of a militia plot to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, who was repeatedly attacked by President Donald Trump this year for her tough coronavirus lockdown, according to court records released on on October 8, 2020. A sworn affadavit from an FBI agent detailed the outlines of the plot which was thwarted by law enforcement. / AFP / JIM WATSON

The FBI has arrested 13 militia members over a plot to kidnap the Governor of Michigan, Gretchen Whitmer.

A sworn affidavit from an FBI agent detailed the outlines of the plot, which was thwarted by law enforcement.

“The group talked about creating a society that followed the US Bill of Rights and where they could be self-sufficient,” the agent wrote.

“At one point, several members talked about state governments they believed were violating the US Constitution, including the government of Michigan and Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

“Several members talked about murdering ‘tyrants’ or ‘taking’ a sitting governor."

The government used informants and undercover agents to thwart the alleged plot.

Members of the group had anti-government views and were plotting to kidnap the Democrat from her summer home, the affidavit filed in court and revealed on Thursday.

The criminal complaint identified six of them as Adam Fox, Ty Garbin, Kaleb Franks, Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta, all of Michigan, and Barry Croft of Delaware.

They are being charged with kidnapping conspiracy.

Seven others, with links to a Michigan militia called the Wolverine Watchmen, are charged by state courts and accused of trying to target police and the Michigan capitol.

The federal affidavit said Mr Fox was recorded in June as saying he needed 200 men to storm the capitol building in Lansing, Michigan's state capital, and take hostages including the governor.

The ages of the accused men were not revealed.

Hours after the arrests, Ms Whitmer said President Donald Trump’s words had been a “rallying cry” for extremists.

She mentioned Mr Trump’s debate performance, when he told one far-right extremist group to “stand back and stand by" in a question about condemning white supremacy groups.

“Hate groups heard the president’s words not as a rebuke, but as a rallying cry,” Ms Whitmer said.

“When our leaders speak, their words matter. They carry weight. When our leaders meet, encourage or fraternise with domestic terrorists, they legitimise their actions and they are complicit.

"When they stoke and contribute to hate speech, they are complicit.”

Trained for an attack on state capitol

The FBI tracked the suspects' encrypted and social media messages and then had a source infiltrate a meeting that a larger group held in Ohio last June.

The affidavit said the source recorded the meeting and received $8,600 as compensation.

A broken window is seen on a home the FBI searched  in a Hartland Township mobile home park late Wednesday night and into the morning in connection with a plot to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, on October 8, 2020 in Heartland, Michigan.  Six men have been charged as part of a militia plot to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, who was repeatedly attacked by President Donald Trump this year for her tough coronavirus lockdown, according to court records released. / AFP / JEFF KOWALSKY

The complaint said Mr Fox then contacted the Wolverine Watchmen.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said the seven men linked to the militia would also be charged under the state’s anti-terrorism statute.

They are suspected of trying to identify the homes of law enforcement officers to “target” them and “make threats of violence intended to instigate a civil war”.

They also planned and trained for an operation to attack the Michigan capitol building and to kidnap government officials, including the governor, Ms Nessel said.

In the past two months, the group shifted to surveillance on Ms Whitmer’s summer home and planned to execute the operation before the election.

US President Donald Trump criticised Ms Whitmer on Twitter over the spring and summer, and called on his supporters to “liberate Michigan”.

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