A U.S. Army private is accused of planning a violent attack on his own unit with the Order of the Nine Angles — a neo-Nazi satanic group based in the U.K., sometimes called the O9A or ONA — according to a grand-jury indictment unsealed Monday.
Ethan Melzer, a 22-year-old soldier from Louisville, Kentucky, is charged with conspiring and attempting to murder U.S. nationals, conspiring and attempting to murder military service members, providing and attempting to provide material support to terrorists, and conspiring to murder and maim in a foreign country, per a press release from the U.S. Justice Department.
According to the indictment, Melzer enlisted with the Army in 2018 and deployed with his unit in October 2019, consuming propaganda from extremist groups like O9A and ISIS during this time. On May 14th, Melzer sent text messages on an O9A thread on Telegram saying he believed his “military training, survival, [and] links to other groups” could be an asset to the group. On May 17th, the indictment says, he relayed information about his unit’s deployment to an alleged member of Al Qaeda.
“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,” Audrey Strauss, the acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in a press release. “Melzer allegedly provided this potentially deadly information intending that it be conveyed to jihadist terrorists. As alleged, Melzer was motivated by racism and hatred as he attempted to carry out this ultimate act of betrayal.”
On May 23rd, he sent texts to O9A members saying he was “risking [his] literal free life” by providing information about his military unit and that he hoped a prospective attack would lead to a “new war” and cause “mascal,” an abbreviation for mass casualties. He later sent the group information regarding his unit’s location and its surveillance capacity, promising to later send more details in order to “maximize the likelihood of a successful attack on his unit,” the indictment says.
“Who gives a fuck,” Melzer allegedly wrote after saying he could possibly die in the attack. “I would’ve died successfully … ’cause another 10-year war in the Middle East would definitely leave a mark.”
In an interview with the FBI following his arrest on June 10th, Melzer allegedly quickly confessed to the plan, saying he wanted to cause “the deaths of as many of his fellow service members as possible.” He also referred to himself as “a traitor against the United States” and professed that his plan to attack the U.S. military was “tantamount to treason.” If convicted of the most serious charge, conspiring to murder U.S. nationals, Melzer could face life in prison.
The ONA is described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an “enigmatic satanic occult group whose most extreme adherents promote human sacrifice, Nazism and fascism and Aryan myths, and have been reported to praise Adolf Hitler and Osama bin Laden.” A British anti-racist group called for the ONA to be banned last year after a 16-year-old boy who cited it as an influence was arrested for plotting a terrorist attack.
Though ONA is based in the U.K., it has a presence in the U.S. and ties to Atomwaffen, another far-right extremist group that saw an increase in members after the deadly 2017 Charlottesville rally. ONA literature specifically encourages members (called Noctulians) to infiltrate mainstream organizations for six months, such as a police force, the military, or a far-right political organization.
“Undertake the role of extreme political activist and so champion heretical views (by, e.g., becoming involved in extreme Right-Wing activism),” a passage in one of its introductory manuals says. “The aim is to express fanaticism in action and be seen by all ‘right-thinking people’ as an extremist, and a dangerous one.”