Disturbing images showing eight masked men shooting what appears to be a combination of shotguns and assault rifles is the latest propaganda posted by neo-Nazi extremist network The Base, as the group garners the attention of law enforcement in both the US and Canada.
Tipped by the Counter-Extremism Project, the footage was posted on a known extremist Telegram channel and shows at least seven masked men holding weapons, then firing them in the same direction. A counterterrorism source told VICE the GIF, which is dated August 18, 2019, has never been seen online until this weekend, around the time it was believed The Base was training near Spokane, Washington State and undertaking a “hate camp” —a paramilitary-style training camp for militant neo-Nazis.
News of the footage comes just one day after an alleged member of the group was outed as a soldier with the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) and was under investigation by federal authorities. Master Corporal Patrik Mathews, a member of the CAF Reserves, is accused of participating in the armed neo-Nazi collective and is now being investigated by two police forces, the RCMP and military police.
The RCMP's investigation into Mathews led police to search the man’s home, where they seized several firearms. A neighbour captured a video of a tactical RCMP unit pulling up to a home in Beausejour, where Mathews is known to live, and calling for “Patrik” to surrender.
Speaking to VICE, RCMP confirmed the firearm sweep, but would not say Mathews was the suspect. They told VICE officers executed a public safety warrant at 10 PM on Monday and that while a “number of firearms were seized,” no one is in custody “at this time.”
The RCMP would not confirm what sparked the search or what firearms were seized. The Winnipeg Free Press confirmed the home was that of Mathews.
The group Mathews is alleged to be a part of is one of the most extreme in the far-right ecosystem. VICE conducted an investigation into the group in November and found it was an extremist cell founded in 2018 by a man who goes by the aliases "Norman Spear" and "Roman Wolf." Spear aimed to bring together different groups who make up the typically fractious extreme-right ecosystem to create domestic-terror cells worldwide.
The group’s online library provides members with a variety of extremist literature, which includes guides for making bombs and chemical weapons. Its members are encouraged to go beyond online actions and carry out real-world violence. Joshua Fisher-Birch, a research analyst at the Counter Extremism Project, a U.S.-based terrorism watchdog, said the mixing of online recruiting and push for real-world actions make The Base a “significant threat.”
"The Base is particularly dangerous because of [its] focus on developing and sharing skills useful for terrorism and guerilla warfare, such as ambushes, weapons training, and making explosives," Fisher-Birch said. "This is a radical group that not only wants violence but is preparing for it."
Recently The Base has been pushing to recruit new members in international locations, including a postering campaign in the Canadian province of Manitoba. In some locations the group has conducted training events and posted images of those meetups online.
Ryan Thorpe, a reporter with the Winnipeg Free Press, was able to pass neo-Nazis’ vetting process and observe the inner workings of the group. Thorpe wrote a series of explosive stories in which he outlined The Base’s current online activities and then met up with a member in Winnipeg. The member told Thorpe about his hateful views, his thirst for violence, and how he attempted to attend a “hate camp” but was blocked by border officials—something that VICE saw evidence of and was referenced independently in Base propaganda.
This person identified himself as a member of the Canadian Armed Forces and Thorpe was able to ID him as one, Cpl Master Patrik Mathews.
Since then the Canadian military and RCMP have both launched investigations into Mathews.
“The Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) was aware of possible racist extremist activities by a CAF member in Manitoba prior to the recent media coverage and have been investigating the matter,” reads a statement provided to VICE. “As the investigation is ongoing, it would be inappropriate to comment further. If any instances of wrong-doing are founded, action will be taken.”
In a press conference, Col. Gwen Bourque said that Mathews was a “class A” soldier who last worked in May when he partook in two parades—he was next expected to work in September. He joined in 2010 and had full-time employment outside of his work in the reserves. She said Mathews had a “basic understanding of demolitions” but was not an expert nor permitted to access explosives or weapons outside of training exercises.
“I wanted to also ensure everyone that Master Corporal Patrik Mathews cannot obtain explosives from the military as he does not have the authorization,” said Bourque. “He doesn't hold any of the requisite qualifications to draw any type of explosive and has no access to weapons. He's had some very rudimentary training on explosives as any combat engineer would, so he has a basic understanding of demolition.”
Attacks committed by far-right extremists are on the rise. Recently a man named Connor Climo, a member of Feuerkrieg Division, a similar group to The Base, was arrested in Las Vegas was and charged with possession of an unregistered firearm after being found with the materials to make an improvised explosive device. Before his arrest, Climo spoke to an undercover FBI agent about his plan to attack a nearby mosque with explosives and firearms. Climo's rhetoric and ideology were consistent with the rhetoric VICE viewed inside the chat room used by members of The Base.
When inside the newest iteration of The Base, the Winnipeg Free Press reporter found many group activities VICE reported are still ongoing. This includes the organizational structure, the veneration of mass killers, a vetted chatroom (now on Wire instead of the Riot server), pushes for the formation of cells internationally, a thirst for real-world action, and bigoted and extremist rhetoric. The leader has dropped his pseudonym of Norman Spear and has adopted Roman Wolf full time.
A Canadian Armed Forces report “White Supremacy, Hate Groups, and Racism in The Canadian Armed Forces" published in November 2018 found 53 members of the CAF have participated in hate groups. This includes a member of Atomwaffen, a similar extremist group The Base which has been involved in five murders since 2017. When asked about what actions the military is taking to prevent extremists from becoming soldiers, Bourque said CAF does “background checks” and “investigates” their members prior to joining.
“I can also tell you right now that the Minister of National Defence just last week, has asked the Ombudsman to look into allegations of hate groups and conduct an investigation,” Bourque added. “So the Government of Canada is taking this very seriously as well.”