Police say 'commander' of Neo-Nazi group linked to planned attack on CNN was only 13 years old
- Estonian police arrested the self-styled "commander" of an online Neo-Nazi group linked to deadly plots in Nevada and to a US soldier who allegedly planned to bomb CNN's headquarters.
- The suspect was just 13 years old.
- Because he is too young to be prosecuted, the government is using "other legal methods" to handle his case.
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Estonian police received an unusual tip from the FBI last year that the self-styled "commander" of an online Neo-Nazi group linked to deadly plots in Nevada and on a US military base had been communicating from a small village in the East European country.
The unusual part?
The "commander" was just 13 years old.
Investigators identified him last January as they tracked the account "HeilHitler8814" on the popular gaming network Steam, according to Estonian media reports, to a local ISP in a remote Estonian village.
The suspect, at just 13, was too young be charged with being a leader in a Baltic-based Neo-Nazi group called "Feuerkrieg Division" or ''fire war division." But he has used an online alias "Commander" and had been responsible for recruiting new members to the group, an offshoot of a much larger international Neo-Nazi group, Atomwaffen Division, according to German media reports on the arrest.
Harrys Puusepp, spokesman for the Estonian Internal Security Service, told The Associated Press last Thursday that the police agency "intervened in early January because of a suspicion of danger" and "suspended this person's activities in" Feuerkrieg Division.
"As the case dealt with a child under the age of 14, this person cannot be prosecuted under the criminal law and instead other legal methods must be used to eliminate the risk. Cooperation between several authorities, and especially parents, is important to steer a child away from violent extremism," said Puusepp, who didn't specify the child's age or elaborate on the case.
30 core activists who used encrypted apps to recruit new members
Both German and Estonian media have described the suspect as a 13-year-old boy from the island of Saaremaa, famous for Kuressaare Castle, which dates from the 1300s, and its sea views. Investigators were quickly able to learn about his activities recruiting for the group, which German investigators estimate to have about 30 core members who recruit and operate on encrypted messaging apps such as Telegram and Wire.
The group was specifically identified by investigators last April after the arrest of 24-year-old Conor Climo. He was charged with firearms possession after plotting attacks on Jewish targets in Las Vegas with a conspirator who was actually an FBI confidential informant. It was through this informant that the FBI learned that Climo was in touch with international conspirators in the Feuerkrieg Division.
In February, another Feuerkrieg supporter, a 24-year-old US soldier named Jarrett William Smith, was convicted of attempting to purchase explosives from an undercover FBI informant. He was allegedly planning to target CNN's headquarters in Atlanta.
In both cases, investigators discovered the suspects were in touch with the Estonian teen suspect, whom German officials described as a leader of the mostly decentralized group.
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