IntelBrief: White Supremacy Extremists Extend Reach From Ukraine to U.S. Military

INTELBRIEF

IntelBrief: White Supremacy Extremists Extend Reach From Ukraine to U.S. Military

Fighters from the Azov volunteer battalion ignite flares during the march marking the 72nd anniversary of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army in Kiev, Ukraine (AP Photo/Sergei Chuzavkov)

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Bottom Line Up Front

  • As outlined in a new report by The Soufan Center on the nature of transnational white supremacy extremism, the U.S. military has struggled to root out violent white supremacy extremists from its ranks.
  • The F.B.I. recently arrested an American soldier based at Fort Riley in Kansas, Jarret William Smith, who was allegedly planning an attack against CNN and other potential targets.
  • Just last week, two U.S. Army soldiers who had gone AWOL and allegedly met while fighting together in Ukraine were indicted for a murder in Florida.
  • Two of the United States’ most prominent white supremacy extremist groups, the Atomwaffen Division and the Rise Above Movement (R.A.M.), count veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts among their members.

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The F.B.I. recently arrested an American soldier based at Fort Riley in Kansas, Jarret William Smith, who was allegedly planning an attack against major media organization CNN. Smith allegedly discussed attacking the news network with a vehicle borne improvised explosive device (VBIED). Smith allegedly discussed his plans to attack CNN with an undercover F.B.I. agent in an online chat, where he also mentioned assassinating Presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke, killing members of ANTIFA, and distributed bombmaking tips on an Internet forum. It was recently revealed that Smith planned to travel to Ukraine to fight with the Azov Battalion, a violent militia that has actively recruited Western foreign fighters, including Americans, to join its organization. As outlined in a new report released today by The Soufan Center, Ukraine has emerged as a hub in the broader network of transnational white supremacy extremism, attracting foreign fighters from all over the world.

Just last week, two U.S. Army soldiers who had gone absent without leave (AWOL), Alex Zwiefelhofer and Craig Lang, were indicted for their involvement in the murder of a Florida couple. Lang and Zwiefelhofer allegedly met while fighting together in Ukraine for a far-right Ukrainian nationalist paramilitary group known as the Right Sector. Lang, who is now in custody in Ukraine, was a veteran with tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan and was named as a ‘mentor’ to Jarret William Smith in a separate federal indictment. In 2017, Zwiefelhofer and Lang were picked up in South Sudan where they traveled en route to fight against al-Shabaab. Before they were apprehended for the murder in Florida, they allegedly discussed traveling to Venezuela to fight against the Maduro regime.

Two of the United States’ most prominent white supremacy extremist groups, the Atomwaffen Division (AWD) and the Rise Above Movement (R.A.M.), count veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts among their members. R.A.M. members have traveled overseas to Germany, Ukraine, and Italy to celebrate Adolf Hitler’s birthday and forge stronger organizational links with white supremacy extremists based in Europe. Brandon Clint Russell, a member of the Florida National Guard and a founding member of Atomwaffen, was found in possession of a cooler in his garage containing the explosive HMTD (hexamethylene triperoxide diamine), along with  other explosive precursors, multiple pounds of ammonium nitrate, nitromethane, empty shell casings, fuses, and electric matches. Christopher Hasson, a self-described white nationalist and member of the U.S. Coast Guard who also spent five years in the Marine Corps and two more in the Army National Guard, was arrested with an arsenal of weapons, including 15 firearms and more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition. 

The U.S. military has also struggled to root out violent racists and the broader white supremacy extremist movement from its ranks, which claims many veterans of the armed forces and typically sees a surge in membership following the end of major wars. Violent white supremacy extremists, including those who are veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, have studied and attempted to emulate the tactics of terrorist and insurgent groups including al-Qaeda, the so-called Islamic State, and the Afghan Taliban. 

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For tailored research and analysis, please contact:  info@thesoufancenter.org

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