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Soldier accused of planning attack on his own unit, giving classified info to Neo-Nazi group

"Melzer was motivated by racism and hatred as he attempted to carry out this ultimate act of betrayal."
Haley Britzky Avatar

A U.S. Army soldier has been charged with allegedly planning a deadly ambush on his own unit with a neo-Nazi extremist group to which he belonged. 

Pvt. Ethan Melzer, 22, was allegedly “planning an attack” on his own unit, according to a press release from the Southern District of New York’s U.S. Attorney’s Office. 

“As alleged, Ethan Melzer, a private in the U.S. Army, was the enemy within,” Acting U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said in the release. “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. Melzer allegedly provided this potentially deadly information intending that it be conveyed to jihadist terrorists.” 

He was charged on Monday for both conspiring and attempting to kill U.S. nationals; conspiring and attempting to kill U.S. service members; attempting to provide and providing material support to terrorists; and conspiring to murder and maim in a foreign country. All three of the conspiracy charges carry a maximum sentence of life in prison.

The group Melzer joined and was communicating with, the Order of Nine Angles (O9A), is known for its members spouting “violent, neo-Nazi, anti-Semitic, and Satanic beliefs,” and admiring people like Adolf Hitler and Osama bin Laden, the release says. Melzer joined the Army in 2018, and joined O9A a year later. 

Related: Neo-Nazi group membership may not get you booted from the military, officials say

He deployed in October 2019, and per the release, consumed extremist propaganda, including content from ISIS. In April 2020, Melzer was notified of plans “for a further foreign deployment by his unit,” which is when he started planning the attack, according to DoJ.

Melzer allegedly communicated with other O9A members, planning a “jihadi attack” on the service members during their deployment, aiming to cause a “mass casualty” event. 

Assistant Attorney General John C. Demers called Melzer’s plot “a diabolical cocktail of ideologies laced with hate and violence.” In late May, Melzer sent messages about his unit’s deployment, including the number of soldiers traveling, where they would be deployed, and “information about the facility’s surveillance and defensive capabilities.” 

According to the release, Melzer acknowledged that he could die during the attack, saying “who gives a fuck … another 10 year war in the Middle East would definitely leave a mark.” 

He was arrested on June 10 by the FBI. During an interview with investigators, Melzer called himself a traitor against the U.S. and said he’d been planning to kill as many service members as possible. 

“As alleged,” Strauss said in the release. “Melzer was motivated by racism and hatred as he attempted to carry out this ultimate act of betrayal.”