A U.S. soldier assigned to an installation in Europe has been charged with trying to plan a deadly ambush on members of his own unit during an upcoming deployment with the help of an “occult-based neo-Nazi” group known as the “Order of the Nine Angles,” according to an indictment unsealed Monday.
Pvt. Ethan P. Melzer, 22, confessed to plotting what he intended to be a mass casualty attack during an interview with U.S. agents on May 30, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.
Melzer was arrested on June 10 by the FBI. During the interview, Melzer called himself a traitor against the United States and admitted that he intended to cause as many deaths among his fellow service members as possible, according to the indictment.
Melzer enlisted as an infantryman through the Army’s delayed entry program in December 2018 and started his active duty service in June 2019, said Army spokesman Lt. Col. Emanuel Ortizcruz.
Melzer was stationed in Vicenza, Italy, and was slotted to deploy to Turkey. The staff judge advocate from the 173rd Airborne Brigade, also based in Vicenza, helped investigate Melzer, and a picture included in his now unsealed criminal complaint indicates he was a paratrooper in the same brigade.
Melzer’s unit was notified in April 2020 that it would soon deploy to guard another U.S. base in a foreign country. After Melzer learned of the assignment, he used an encrypted messaging application to contact members of the Order of the Nine Angles and a related group known as the “RapeWaffen Division.”
Melzer would go on to provide sensitive information about his unit’s upcoming deployment, such as the unit’s locations, movements, and security, all for the purpose of facilitating an attack, the indictment alleged.
The Order of the Nine Angles is described by the Justice Department as a racially motivated violent extremist group. Members have “espoused violent, neo-Nazi, anti-Semitic, and Satanic beliefs, and have expressed admiration for both Nazis, such as Adolf Hitler, and Islamic jihadists, such as Usama Bin Laden, the now-deceased former leader of Al Qaeda,” the indictment reads.
The RapeWaffen Division has a Telegram channel that promotes rape and murder as part of the quest for a race war, according to the Anti-Defamation League.
On May 23, Melzer allegedly told members of the groups via chat channels that he was “risking [his] literal free life” by disclosing information regarding his unit’s deployment and was “expecting results,” the indictment reads.
Melzer is accused of consuming propaganda from an odd cocktail of extremist groups, including the Islamic State. The FBI reported searching an iCloud account maintained by Melzer that contained an ISIS-issued document with a title that included the phrase “Harvest of the soldiers,” and described attacks and murders of U.S. personnel.
Melzer’s iCloud account also contained a satellite image showing a military installation with coordinates and notes, including one for a chow hall, according to the criminal complaint.
Another participant in the group chat characterized the plot against Melzer’s unit as a “jihadi attack,” and Melzer passed information regarding the deployment to a purported member of al Qaida, according to the indictment. The name of the alleged al Qaida member was not provided.
Melzer also acknowledged that he might die in the attack on his own unit, stating “who gives a f--- … it would be another war … I would’ve died successfully … [causing] another 10-year war in the Middle East would definitely leave a mark.”
Melzer was charged on Monday for 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. The charges carry a maximum sentence of life in prison.
“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,” Acting U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said in a prepared statement released with the charges. “Melzer allegedly provided this potentially deadly information intending that it be conveyed to jihadist terrorists.”
The Order of the Nine Angles has been linked to four cases of teenagers who were jailed in the United Kingdom for terror-related offenses over the past year, according to the British Broadcasting Corporation. It appears to primarily exist online. In the indictment against Melzer, U.S. officials stated that members and associates of the group have participated in acts of violence that include murders.
Kyle Rempfer is an editor and reporter who has covered combat operations, criminal cases, foreign military assistance and training accidents. Before entering journalism, Kyle served in U.S. Air Force Special Tactics and deployed in 2014 to Paktika Province, Afghanistan, and Baghdad, Iraq. Follow on Twitter @Kyle_Rempfer