US soldier arrested over far-right plot to bomb activists, news network
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US soldier arrested over far-right plot to bomb activists, news network

Prosecutors say self described ‘radical’ Jarrett William Smith planned to target left-wing activists, wanted to train with ultra-nationalist Ukrainian group with Nazi sympathies

An honor guard stands at the entrance before ribbon cutting ceremonies for the new 1st Infantry Division Headquarters at Fort Riley, Kansas, on February 9, 2015. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner File)
An honor guard stands at the entrance before ribbon cutting ceremonies for the new 1st Infantry Division Headquarters at Fort Riley, Kansas, on February 9, 2015. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner File)

WASHINGTON — A US Army soldier shared bomb-making instructions online and also discussed killing activists and bombing a news network, according to a criminal complaint filed Monday.

Jarrett William Smith, a 24-year old private first class infantry soldier stationed at Fort Riley, Kansas, was charged with one count of distributing information related to explosives and weapons of mass destruction.

Prosecutors allege Smith discussed his plan to kill far-left-leaning “antifa” activists and described how to build a bomb that could be triggered by calling a cellphone. They allege that he also said on Facebook that he was interested in traveling to Ukraine to fight with Azov Battalion, a far-right paramilitary group with Nazi sympathies.

The Azov Battalion is a National Guard of Ukraine regiment that was set up in 2014, after Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine. The group has attracted neo-Nazi fighters from all over Europe and has stirred fears over the increasing influence of far-right nationalists in Ukraine during its standoff with Russia.

Court papers say Smith also suggested targeting a major news network with a car bomb. The news network was not identified.

Servicemen from the Azov volunteer battalion hold a Ukrainian flag during a ceremony before being sent to eastern Ukraine, in Kiev, Ukraine on Aug.17, 2015.(AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

In an online chat group, Smith allegedly discussed in August with a confidential source a plan to conduct an attack within the United States and said he was looking for more “radicals” like himself, the complaint alleges. He talked about destroying nearby cell towers or a local news station.

In an interview before his arrest, Smith told investigators he knows how to make improvised explosives devices and that he routinely provides instruction on building them. He stated he did this to cause “chaos.”

Lt. Col. Terry Kelley, with the 1st Infantry Division Public Affairs at Fort Riley, said in a statement that Smith has been assigned to Fort Riley since June 2019. He previously served at Fort Bliss, Texas, from November 2017 to June 2019. He entered the Army from Conway, South Carolina, as an infantryman and completed training at Fort Benning, Georgia. He has not deployed.

In one exchange Friday with an FBI undercover agent on the encrypted messaging service Telegram, Smith discussed using various household chemicals and commonly available equipment to make a bomb.

“That’s the best way to fight people,” Smith is quoted in the complaint. “Making AK-47s out of expensive parts is cool, but imagine of you will if you were going to Walmart instead of gun store to buy weapons.”

US Presidential candidate and former Democratic congressman Beto O’Rourke speaks with the media outside the Walmart store in the aftermath of a mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, August 4, 2019. (AP Photo/Andres Leighton)

During that same exchange, Smith allegedly sent the agent instructions for building a “Middle East style bomb” that if big enough can destroy US military vehicles. An FBI bomb technician later determined the specific instructions could have constructed a viable device.

When the undercover agent asked Smith if there was anyone in Texas that would be a good fit for “fire, destruction and death,” Smith reportedly replied, “Outside of Beto? I don’t know enough people that would be relevant enough to cause a change if they died” — an apparent reference to former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, who is running for the Democratic presidential nomination.

If convicted of the charge, Smith could face up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000, according to the US attorney’s office.

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