Neo-Nazis Sarah Beth Clendaniel and Brandon Clint Russell allegedly plotted to damage the Baltimore power grid, according to federal officials.
Two neo-Nazis have been detained and charged by federal authorities for allegedly planning to assault electricity substations in the Baltimore area. If true, this would be the latest effort by far-right extremists to destroy energy facilities around the US.
The arrest of Florida’s Brandon Clint Russell and Maryland’s Sarah Beth Clendaniel on suspicion of conspiring to harm energy facilities was made public on Monday by the Justice Department. According to U.S. Attorney Erek Barron, the two intended to “totally destroy” Baltimore by “inflicting maximum devastation” on the electrical system.
Authorities claim that on January 29, Clendaniel disclosed her plans to shoot up electricity substations in Baltimore, including those in Norrisville, Reisterstown, and Perry Hall, Maryland, to an FBI confidential source.
According to a criminal complaint that was unsealed on Monday, the 34-year-old claimed she was “determined” to carry out the infrastructure strikes and claimed they would “probably permanently utterly lay this city to waste.”
According to the complaint, Clendaniel claimed to be “Nythra88” online and informed the source that she had a terminal renal disease and wouldn’t likely last more than a few months. In order to “achieve something good” before she passed away, she allegedly asked the FBI source to buy her a rifle “within the next couple of weeks.”
The allegation included a picture of a lady, identified as Clendaniel by officials, brandishing a rifle, donning tactical gear with a swastika, and wearing a pistol holster on her left leg. Additionally, according to the FBI, a Google account search for Clendaniel turned up a document that purportedly had references to Adolf Hitler and the Unabomber.
According to the complaint, the document stated, “I would give everything for my people to merely have a chance for our cause to prevail.”
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Clendaniel is charged with collaborating with Russell, the 27-year-old leader of the neo-Nazi organisation Atomwaffen, who was sentenced to jail in 2018 after the FBI discovered explosives and extremist literature on him.
Their other two roommates were killed in 2017, and Russell’s roommate, who was charged with their murders, allegedly said police they intended to strike American infrastructure.
The complaint claims that while chatting to the same FBI source, Russell advocated assaults on power plants and offered advice on how to do the most destruction. According to reports, Russell claimed that the attacks would result in a “cascading failure” of the electrical system and that “punching holes in transformers” is the best thing anyone can do.
Clendaniel is said to have discussed potential attack sites during the first week of February, and Russell instructed the source to communicate with him. According to the complaint, she supplied the FBI source links to infrastructure maps that identified the locations of five particular electricity substations.
Assistant Attorney General for National Security Matthew Olsen stated in a statement that the defendants reportedly planned to attack local power grid facilities “driven by their philosophy of racially-motivated hatred.” “The Justice Department will not tolerate those who harm communities and threaten essential infrastructure in the name of domestic violent extremism,” the statement reads.
Exelon, a power provider, said in a statement that it had been informed that three Baltimore Gas and Electric power plants were allegedly the focus of the alleged scheme. Exelon has a subsidiary called BGE.
The statement added, “Law enforcement intervened before the culprits could carry out their plan, and there was no damage to any of the substations, nor was there any service disruption.” It is not thought that the substations were targeted because of any ties to BGE or Exelon or because of any specific vulnerability.
Recent attempts to damage numerous electrical facilities across the nation have been made by various radicals. At least nine substations have been assaulted in Nevada, Washington, Oregon, North and South Carolina over the past three months.
Tens of thousands of people had significant power disruptions as a result of the attacks during the winter, making the vulnerability of the American electrical grid to domestic terrorism clear.
Conspiracy to assault energy facilities is a federal offence that carries a maximum 20-year prison sentence.