Police and federal agents around the country are investigating a neo-Nazi group that the FBI says was trying to build an Al Qaeda-style terror network.
Seven members of The Base were arrested last week on a variety of accusations including plotting violence at a Second Amendment rally in Richmond, Virginia, on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Some allegedly planned to kill people involved with Antifa and members of the media in Georgia, according to the FBI.
At least one undercover agent was able to get access to the group and some of the members’ online chats. Court filings and reports paint a picture of an extremist group with small cells around the country and ties stretching from rural Georgia to the Pacific Northwest.
Here are five things to know about The Base:
FBI: They’re organized like a terrorist group
According to the Anti-Defamation League, “The Base is a small militant neo-Nazi organization that emerged mid-2018 and is primarily active in the U.S.” The extremist group’s leader, who has several aliases, described The Base as “kind of like a nationalist survivalist LinkedIn type of thing.”
The FBI said in court filings that members communicated through encrypted messaging systems and chat rooms. “In these communications, they have discussed, among other things, acts of violence against minorities (including African Americans and Jewish Americans), Base military training camps, and ways to make improvised explosive devices,” according to the filings.
“The Base cells have a significant degree of autonomy regarding their activities, and criminal conduct is typically not centrally coordinated in order to foster ‘plausible deniability’ among those not directly involved,” the FBI said.
According to The Guardian, “The Base” can be “an approximate English translation of ‘al-Qaida.’”
Three arrested in the Richmond plot
Investigators say three men based in Maryland and Delaware planned to attack a Second Amendment rally in Richmond, Virginia, according to ABC News.
The FBI arrested Brian Mark Lemley, Jr., 33, and William Garfield Bilbrough IV, 19, and a Canadian national, 27-year-old Patrik Jordan Mathews.
On Aug. 19, Mathews left Canada and entered the United States near the Minnesota border, where he was picked up by the other two men and driven to Maryland, the Department of Justice said.
The men managed to piece together a working machine gun late last year and in January they bought more than 1,600 rounds of ammunition, the feds said.
Police arrested the three before the Virginia rally, which ended peacefully.
Three more arrested in Georgia
Police in Georgia arrested three other alleged members of The Base this month after they plotted to kill members of Antifa, an antifascist group, according to the Floyd County Police Department.sonos sonos One (Gen 2) - Voice Controlled Smart Speaker with Amazon Alexa Built-in - Black read more
Investigators said “they were involved in a white supremacist group with plans to overthrow the government and murder a Bartow County couple.”
The Base had a training camp in Silver Creek, Georgia, an unincorporated rural area near Rome, about 50 miles northwest of Atlanta, police said.
An undercover FBI agent was able to infiltrate the group in July 2019, according to the department. He was there for discussions about the alleged murder plot and one of the men talking about planning to kill members of the media, according to police records.
Luke Austin Lane, 21; Michael John Helterbrand, 25; and Jacob Kaderli, 19, were charged with “conspiracy to commit murder and participation in the criminal gang known as ‘The Base,’” police said.
Police arrested a seventh member of The Base last week in Wisconsin, 22-year-old Yousef O. Barasneh.
According to the DOJ, “Barasneh vandalized the Beth Israeli Sinai Congregation in Racine, Wisconsin, by spray-painting swastikas, the symbol for The Base, and anti-Semitic words on the exterior of the synagogue.”
Leader has reported connections to Russia
The leader of The Base is not known for sure, but goes by the names Norman Spear or Roman Wolf, according to The New York Times.
“Little is known about Mr. Spear, who calls himself a veteran of the conflicts of Afghanistan and Iraq and has been described on some social media accounts as living in Russia,” The Times reported.
The Guardian newspaper reported Thursday that the leader’s real name was Rinaldo Nazzaro.
Nazarro, 46, “has a long history of advertising his services as an intelligence, military and security contractor. He has claimed, under his alias, to have served in Russia and Afghanistan.”
The Guardian said it has been investigating The Base for months before publishing the name of the man they believe is the founder of the extremist group.
The publication said it tracked down the man’s real identity after he bought 10 acres in rural Washington. People were reportedly concerned he was going to create a training camp for The Base.
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