US soldier plotted with neo-Nazi group to attack own unit

Ethan Melzer wanted to spark a new '10-year war' in the Middle East

The offices of the Southern District of New York are seen in Manhattan Saturday morning after U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman disputed a press release by Attorney General William Barr late Friday night that Berman will be stepping down from his position, in New York City, U.S., June 20, 2020. REUTERS/Caitlin Ochs
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A US soldier with links to neo-Nazis plotted to have Islamic extremists attack his unit in Turkey in hopes of sparking a new "10-year war" in the Middle East, the Justice Department charged on Monday.

An indictment unsealed in New York said Ethan Phelan Melzer, 22, was serving in the US Army in Vincenza, Italy, and expecting to go to Turkey when he offered an FBI informant he believed had ties to extremist groups detailed information on his unit's movements last month.

In online chatrooms for the neo-Nazi and satanist Order of the Nine Angles, or O9A, he detailed their planned location and armaments in Turkey, suggesting attackers could easily overcome the force, according to the indictment.

“As alleged, Ethan Melzer, a private in the US Army, was the enemy within,” the acting US 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."

Mr Melzer made clear he was supporting an extremist attack on the unit, and that he himself might die.

"I would've died successfully... another 10-year war in the Middle East would definitely leave a mark," he told the informant.

He was charged with six counts of plotting to murder his fellow soldiers and material support to terror groups. The indictment said the Louisville, Kentucky native enlisted in the army in 2018 and had joined the violent O9A at least as early as 2019.

He shared information on his unit's movements with fellow O9A followers and a related group called the "Rapewaffen Division" "for the purpose of facilitating an attack on the unit," the Justice Department alleged.

After his arrest, Mr Melzer declared himself to be a traitor against the United States, and described his own conduct as tantamount to treason," it said in a statement.

If found guilty he faces up to life in prison.