MD woman plotted with neo-Nazi to attack power grid, feds say

today02/07/2023 18

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BALTIMORE (AP) — A Maryland woman spent months conspiring with a neo-Nazi leader based in Florida to plan an attack on Baltimore’s power grid, hoping to further their racist mission, law enforcement officials said Monday.

The plan was thwarted when both suspects were arrested last week, adding to a growing list of similar cases as authorities warn the American electrical grid could be a vulnerable target for domestic terrorists.  Sarah Beth Clendaniel, 34, was working with Brandon Russell, who founded a small Florida-based neo-Nazi group, to plan a series of “sniper attacks” on Maryland electrical substations, according to a criminal complaint unsealed Monday. The document also included a photo of a woman authorities identified as Clendaniel wearing tactical gear that bore a swastika and holding a rifle.

It wasn’t immediately clear Monday whether either suspect had a lawyer to speak on their behalf. There was no evidence the plot was carried out or any record of damage to local substations.  U.S. Attorney Erek Barron praised investigators for disrupting hate-fueled violence.  Authorities declined to specify how the planned attack was meant to fulfill a racist motive but suggested the defendants wanted to bring attention to their cause. Russell had discussed targeting the grid during cold weather “when most people are using max electricity,” authorities alleged.

According to the complaint, Clendaniel was planning to target five substations situated in a ring around Baltimore, a majority-Black city mostly surrounded by heavily white suburban areas.  Recent attacks and threats to the U.S. power grid have heightened concerns about protecting critical infrastructure.  Baltimore Gas and Electric, which controls the local power grid, thanked law enforcement on Monday and said there was no damage to substations, service wasn’t disrupted and there are currently no known threats to facilities.

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore also praised the investigative efforts that succeeded in “preventing a potentially catastrophic attack on several of Maryland’s electrical substations.”

Source: AP – All contents copyright 2023 Associated Press.  All rights reserved.

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