An international neo-Nazi extremist group has claimed in chat channels that it had advance knowledge of planned terrorist attacks by an alleged member, a Las Vegas man arrested for plotting bombings against a local synagogue.
Tipped by the Counter Extremism Project, a US-based terrorism watchdog, VICE has viewed messages by the Feuerkrieg Division (FKD), a splinter of the violent white supremacist extremist group Atomwaffen Division (AWD). FKD, which is based in Europe, has claimed it not only encouraged attacks by Conor Climo, 23, on Las Vegas’ LGBTQ and Jewish communities, but knew of his plot before his arrest.
“When he told us about his idea we even encouraged him and asked if he needed help, he
said he didn’t,” said a recent message on what is believed to be the official FKD Telegram channel, which has approximately 330 members.
The news illustrates the increasing internationalization of white supremacist terror groups, which are mimicking some of the tactics of jihadist groups like ISIS, who have in recent years remotely encouraged lone actors in other countries through digital means to carry out attacks against civilians.
In a criminal complaint accusing Climo of having the ingredients to make an improvised explosive device, the U.S. Department of Justice names Climo as a member of FKD, having joined sometime in 2017 because the group “was interested in his knowledge of constructing explosive devices" and shared the same extremist views as him.
The FBI began actively investigating Climo in April 2019 after the agency discovered he was communicating with members of AWD, which it describes as a militant organization bent on “challenging the established laws, social order, and government via terrorism and other violent acts.”
“AWD encourages attacks on the federal government, including critical infrastructure, minorities, homosexuals, and Jews,” reads the affidavit. “AWD works to recruit like-minded members to the organization, train them in military tactics, hand to hand combat, bomb-making, and other techniques in preparation for an ‘ultimate and uncompromising victory’ in a race war.”
Authorities allege that Climo made contact with an FBI source in May of this year. Climo gave this FBI source instructions for creating a homemade Molotov cocktail, and spoke of how he wanted to firebomb the synagogue. This source then tipped off the FBI. The FBI alleges it sent an undercover online agent to make contact with Climo, who told the agent, “I’m more interested in action than online shit.” Climo shared a Swiss book on guerrilla warfare, and mused about attacking a power plant. He spoke at length of planning to attack a nearby synagogue with "incendiary device combined with a light infantry weapon." The planning is alleged to have gone as far as having an escape route planned.
Authorities say that Climo would regularly use "derogatory racial, anti-Semitic, and homosexual slurs." The complaint alleges Climo joined the extreme-right group because "FKD offered him glory and the ability to contribute his knowledge of constructing explosive devices toward a 'righteous' cause." Climo allegedly left the group because he became bored with their "inactions" and lack of violent attacks against minorities.
On August 8, Climo was arrested by an FBI-led task force. According to the criminal complaint, the FBI sent in a bomb technician to search Climo's room, where they found everything needed to construct an explosive weapon and items "needed to construct an Improvised Explosive Device circuit.” These included circuit boards, thermite, a strong oxidizing agent, and more.
The complaint says that when interviewing Climo, the 23-year-old told authorities that he has long experimented with "the making of explosive devices” and attempted to hire a homeless man to conduct surveillance on a local synagogue in preparation for a lethal attack. Climo had also allegedly sketched in his journal a “Las Vegas bar that he viewed as catering to homosexuals" and had drawn out the terror attack with, "two infantry squads attacking the bar with firearms from the outside and one attacking it with firearms from the inside.”
Climo was charged with one count of possession of an unregistered firearm—the firearm in question is the explosive device. The press release says Climo faces up to ten years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
This article originally appeared on VICE US.