Neo-Nazi leader among 2 arrested in conspiracy to attack Baltimore power grid, FBI says

    The FBI captured two people, one of them a nationally known neo-Nazi leader, before they could launch an attack on Baltimore’s power grid which had the potential to “completely destroy this entire city,” authorities said Monday.

    The suspects, Brandon Russell and Sarah Clendaniel, were taken into custody last week in Florida and Maryland, respectively, officials said.

    Federal authorities describe the alleged plot as “racially or ethnically motivated.” More than 61% of Baltimore residents are black.

    Russell, 27, is one of the founders of the Atomwaffen Division, a neo-Nazi group bent on “starting the collapse of civilization,” according to the Southern Center for Poverty Law, a non-profit organization for civil rights activists. According to the League against defamationthe group admires Charles Manson and supports “the idea of ​​violence by lone wolves”.

    Sarah Clendaniel is a suspect in an alleged plot to attack Baltimore’s power grid.NBC news

    The alleged plot was first spotted in June after an FBI informant claimed to have been contacted by Russell, who “wanted to attack electrical substations and gave advice on how to do maximum damage,” according to the charges filed against the pair .

    Russell then put the informant in touch with Clendaniel, a Maryland resident, to plan an attack on stations in and around Baltimore, federal authorities said.

    The pair and the informant worked with urgency, as Clendaniel said she was terminally ill with kidney disease “and was unlikely to live more than a few months,” according to the indictment.

    Clendaniel, 34, had five stations in her sights, officials said, in Norrisville, Reisterstown and Perry Hall, Maryland, and two more “near Baltimore,” the complaint said.

    Attacks on all five would be a “ring” around Baltimore and if they hit some of them all on the same day, they would “completely destroy this entire city,” Clendaniel reportedly said in a taped conversation, the indictment revealed.

    Thomas J. Sobocinski, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Baltimore office, said the suspects were serious about trying to paralyze the FBI. city ​​of 580,000.

    “The accused were not just talking, they were taking steps to fulfill their threats and further their extremist goals. Russell provided instructions and location information. He described attacking the power transformers as the best thing anyone can do” Sobocinski told reporters in Baltimore.

    “Their actions threatened the electricity and heat of our homes, hospitals and businesses.”

    Russell came on the FBI’s radar in 2018 when his Muslim roommate killed two other roommates who had taunted him about his faith, the indictment said.

    The murder investigation in Tampa, Florida, revealed Russell’s connection to the Atomwaffen, federal authorities said.

    Russell was arrested and eventually convicted of possession from an unregistered destructive device.

    Clendaniel appeared handcuffed Monday afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge G. Richard Collins in Baltimore.

    Clendaniel, who has shoulder-length red hair, wore a gray jacket with a fluffy collar. She appeared to be wearing no shoes, only winter socks.

    Collins told Clendaniel she could face up to 20 years if convicted of conspiracy to destroy a power plant. The government requested that she be held without bail, and the defense did not object to that request.

    A federal public defender was appointed to represent Clendaniel and left court Monday without comment.

    Russell appeared in a federal court in Florida on Monday and a magistrate ordered his detention. He will be transported to US District Court in Baltimore.

    His lawyer was not immediately available for comment Monday night.

    Erek L. Barron, U.S. attorney from Maryland, thanked local and state law enforcement agencies for their cooperation.

    “Together, we are using whatever legal means necessary to keep Marylanders safe and challenge hate-driven violence,” Barron said.

    Attacks on the country’s power grid came into focus in December after two high-profile incidents.

    There were shootings at two power stations in central North Carolina in early December, officials said. At the height of the Duke Energy outage, more than 45,000 homes and businesses were in the dark.

    They were followed by attacks on four power substations over the Christmas weekend near Tacoma, Washington, when about 14,000 homes and businesses were forced without power, officials said.

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