On Wednesday, a soldier pleaded guilty to attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State (IS) militant group.
Additionally, the soldier from the US entered a guilty plea to the charges of attempting to kill US military personnel in the Middle East.
Cole Bridges, also known as Cole Gonzales, 22, of Stow, Ohio, joined the United States Army in September 2019 and was assigned to the Third Infantry Division at Fort Stewart, Georgia, as a cavalry scout.
In the same year, he is said to have begun researching and consuming online propaganda that supported IS on social media while also promoting militants and their violent ideology.
Prosecutors stated that Bridges quickly “provided training and guidance to purported ISIS fighters who were planning attacks, including advice about potential targets in New York City.” He even depicted specific military maneuvers that, according to him, could assist IS in killing more US troops.
Bridges had no idea that he was actually sharing information with a fake IS supporter FBI agent. He gave the agent a video in January 2021 of himself in his US Army body armor standing in front of a flag that IS fighters frequently use and making a gesture of support for the group. The same month, he was detained.
Based on publicly available information, it is unclear whether the US soldier ever came into contact with any genuine Islamic State fighters.
A maximum sentence of 20 years in prison can be imposed for attempting to murder US military personnel and for attempting to provide IS with material support.
In a statement, US attorney Damian Williams of the Southern District of New York stated, “As he admitted in court today, Cole Bridges attempted to orchestrate a murderous ambush on his fellow soldiers in service of ISIS and its violent ideology.”
“Bridges’s traitorous conduct was a betrayal of his comrades and his country. Thanks to the incredible work of the prosecutors of this office and our partners at the FBI and the US Army, Bridges’s malign intent was revealed, and he now awaits sentencing for his crimes.”
On November 2, Bridges will be sentenced.
About a third of Syria and 40% of Iraq were under Islamic State (IS) control at its height.
US troops entered Syria in 2015. They pushed back the group as part of Operation Inherent Resolve, collaborating with their Kurdish and Iraqi allies.
In 2019, IS was defeated territorially. The group’s remnants have mostly retreated into desert hideouts in the east of Syria, where they are periodically the targets of US raids and strikes.