Nazi couple is accused of planning to blow up the power grid
Nazi couple is accused of planning to blow up the power grid

Berlin: The US Department of Justice has disclosed that the founding member of the neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen and his girlfriend have been accused of planning to destroy an energy facility. They are scheduled to appear in federal court on Monday and could receive a sentence of up to 20 years.

Although it's unclear how they connected because they were housed in different facilities, Sarah Clendaniel and Brandon Russell, a National Guard veteran who founded the white nationalist Atomwaffen group in 2016, got to know each other while they were both detained.

Last month, the two allegedly revealed the specifics of their alleged plot to an undercover informant Russell had met while serving time for possession of an unregistered destructive device and improper storage of bomb-making materials. The two had started talking about infrastructure attacks last summer.

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Immediately following a snowstorm, "when most people are using maximum electricity," Russell informed the informant, the couple intended to attack five power substations in the Baltimore area. He explained that since the transformers were "custom made and could take almost a year to replace," they would shoot at them.

Clendaniel allegedly boasted to the informant that their "legendary" plot would "lay [Baltimore] to waste," admitting that she had kidney disease and wished to first "accomplish something worthwhile." She had served time for robbing convenience stores with a machete in a state prison in Maryland.

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Thomas Sobocinski, the special agent in charge of the FBI's Baltimore office, told reporters at a press conference that the accused "were not just talking, but taking steps to fulfil their threats and further their extremist goals." The couple were labelled as "racially or ethnically motivated extremists" by the speaker.

It's unclear, though, if they had chosen specific targets or planned a schedule for the attacks. Clendaniel reportedly intended to search for suitable locations but was currently without access to a gun.

Sobocinski admitted that there was no proof connecting the couple's alleged plot to recent attacks on power plants in North Carolina, Oregon, or Washington. Although no motives or suspects have been made public, at least six of these attacks were reported in December.

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In November, the Department of Homeland Security issued a warning about a wide-ranging "heightened threat environment," which could include attacks on critical infrastructure. The organisation issued a warning in January of last year stating that domestic extremists had created "credible, specific" plans to attack electrical infrastructure. They cited a document that explained how to use guns to attack a power grid in order to help bring about societal collapse. The document was posted to a "extremist" Telegram channel.

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