Extremist group – Two people were charged on Monday for planning to attack electrical infrastructure while trying to destroy Baltimore, Maryland.
According to court documents provided by the federal authorities, a neo-Nazi leader reportedly intended to attack electrical substations with a woman he was dating.
They targeted the nearby facilities, hoping to destroy Baltimore entirely.
Sarah Beth Clendaniel and Brandon Clint Russell were charged by the Justice Department for planning to attack the electricity infrastructure.
According to the allegations, radical ideologies fueled the plot against Maryland on the basis of race or ethnicity.
Tom Sobocisnki, the head of the FBI field office in Baltimore, claimed that the two intended to “inflict maximum harm on the power grid.”
“The accused were not just talking, but taking steps to fulfill their threats and further their extremist goals,” said Sobocisnki.
The charges come after warnings from domestic experts that extremist groups are trying harder to strike power installations.
Extremist groups attacking
In the second half of 2022, two shots were fired at a power substation in Moore County, North Carolina.
45,000 households and businesses lost electricity as a result of the attack.
According to experts, domestic extremist groups may already be planning other attacks of this sort.
It comes after an FBI caution from November, but its purpose is still unknown, which warned that extremist groups were threatening to stir up societal unrest and encourage further carnage.
“This typically primitive style attack equals millions of dollars in damage,” said former US Department of Homeland Security Assistant Secretary for Infrastructure Protection Brian Harrell.
“If you were to shoot some very key components, you can quickly create an effect where this large multimillion transformer becomes essentially a paperweight.”
The Department of Energy reported that there were 25 violent attacks on US power facilities in 2017.
80 vandalism occurrences and 57 allegations of suspicious activity were also reported.
The numbers show an increase from 2021 reports with six violent attacks, two sabotage complaints, 32 reports of suspicious conduct, and 52 acts of vandalism.
Most of the reports likely come from extremist group members.
Sarah Beth Clendaniel made her first appearance in federal court on Monday afternoon in Baltimore’s downtown before District Court Judge Richard Collins.
As she reviewed the accusations against her in preparation for the hearing, she shook her head.
Clendaniel’s court-appointed counsel, Kirstin Hopkins, complied with the government’s request to keep the defendant incarcerated while awaiting further hearings.
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In a later court appearance, she’ll probably enter a plea.
A preliminary hearing in her case is also scheduled for February 15.
Brandon Clint Russell’s initial court appearance was scheduled for Monday in Orlando.
On his hearing, however, there is currently no information available.
During conversations that were recorded on tape in January, Clendaniel is charged with telling FBI informants that the facilities were targeted as part of a plan to destroy the whole city.
She and Russell allegedly gave the source the facility details, per the charging papers.
Furthermore, according to the informant, Brandon Clint Russell gave them a YouTube video of the attack on the North Carolina substation.
He is also said to have founded his local National Socialist Group and to harbor neo-Nazi views.
Authorities assert that he and his roommates plotted a similar strike in Florida before deciding to attack the electrical infrastructure in Maryland.
Evidence of the alleged plot was discovered after an investigation into the 2017 deaths of two of his roommates by another roommate.
During the news briefing on Monday, officials said that Russell and Clendaniel were in a real-life and online relationship.
According to the Justice Department, Russell has been in contact with the FBI’s insider since June 2022 while using the handle “Homunculus.”
He is claimed to have discussed beginning an attack on vital infrastructure with the source several times over the course of the following months.
At one point, the source and Homunculus discussed Mylar balloons.
He allegedly said that punching holes in transformers is “the greatest thing somebody can do,” in addition to outlining other potential assaults on electrical substations.
According to reports, Sarah Beth Clendaniel presented herself to the FBI source in January as “Nythra88” and “Kali1889.”
According to the charge documents, she reportedly told the source that she wanted to accomplish something significant before dying of a terrible illness.
She requested help in order to obtain weapons.
The source claims that they were informed by Homunculus and Clendaniel of their intentions to attack power stations.
The prosecution charges claim that on January 24, the source taped a voice discussion that lasted more than two hours.
Five days later, Clendaniel told the informant by voicemail that they would target the facilities close to Baltimore.
The charge documents revealed that the two members of the extremist group had been in touch since at least 2018, while they were both serving jail terms at other institutions.
Russell was given a 60-month sentence in January 2018 after admitting to carrying an unregistered device and unlawfully storing explosive materials.
His roommate, along with their other two roommates, was advised that he was the group’s leader at the time, according to court documents.
A nuclear reactor and power lines close to Alligator Alley were among the critical US infrastructure the roommate said the organization wanted to attack (around Interstate 75).
According to court documents, the roommate was interrogated by authorities after killing the other two roommates for bullying him for converting from neo-Nazi beliefs to Islam.
Russell was under supervised release at the time of his release in the recently-publicized case.
While being detained in 2006, Clendaniel’s record showed a number of infractions, including an armed robbery at a convenience shop with a large butcher knife.
She was given a five-year prison sentence.
Image source: AP News