Online, he was known as HeilHitler8814, the so-called “commander” of a neo-Nazi group with plans to bomb CNN and attack a U.S. synagogue in hopes of starting a race war.
In real life, he was a 13-year-old keyboard warrior flirting with racism and terrorism from his parents’ home in Estonia, according to officials and reports from the tiny eastern European country.
The Estonian Internal Security Service (EISS) says it struck a damaging blow to an international hate group called the Feuerkrieg Division earlier this year when it showed up at the kid’s house and told his parents what he’d been up to.
Authorities couldn’t charge the boy because he was too young, but they worked with his parents to get him to “suspend” his activities with the hate group, according to Harrys Puusepp, a spokesperson for the EISS.
“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,” Puusepp told the Associated Press.
“Co-operation between several authorities, and especially parents, is important to steer a child away from violent extremism,” he added.
Puusepp did not release the boy’s name or details about his identity. However, Estonian media have reported that he is a 13-year-old boy living in a small town on Saaremaa, Estonia’s largest island, based on leaked archives from the Feuerkrieg Division’s online chats.
The Feuerkrieg (fire war) Division is as an international, far-right white supremacist movement with approximately 30 members worldwide, according to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). The group is a spinoff of the U.S.-based Atomwaffen Division, which has been linked to several murders in the United States. It “advocates for ‘sacrifice’ and embraces violence as a solution to ‘fix’ the current political and cultural system,” according to the ADL. The group was founded in 2018 and advocates for a race war, though most of its activities are conducted over the internet.
The boy allegedly recruited members for the group, shared bomb-making instructions and talked about attacking various targets under his far-right ideology.
Authorities say they went to his house in early January “because of a suspicion of danger” based on monitored conversations in the group.
The group showed up on the FBI’s radar last year after authorities caught wind of a plot to firebomb a synagogue in Las Vegas. Conor Climo, 24, ultimately pleaded guilty to possession of an unregistered firearm in connection with the incident last February. The FBI found that Climo had been communicating with the Feuerkrieg Division through an encrypted messaging app, according to court filings.
U.S. Army soldier Jarrett William Smith, 24, also pleaded guilty last February in connection with a Feuerkrieg Division plot to bomb CNN.
The Feuerkrieg Division is one of several far-right white supremacist groups promoting a philosophy of “accelerationism,” which encourages acts of mass violence to supposedly speed up the collapse of society.
The man who killed 51 people at a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand last year also promoted that philosophy in his manifesto.
Estonian authorities say this latest case shows that parents, friends and teachers can play a crucial role in preventing children from being radicalized by internet extremism.
“Unfortunately, in practice, there are cases where parents themselves have bought extremist literature for their children, which contributes to radicalization,” Alar Ridamae of the EISS said in a statement to the media.
Oren Segal of the ADL says young people often become both targets and leaders among these online racist groups because they feel drawn to the wide-ranging power and influence they can wield in secret from anywhere.
“That young kids are getting that sense of belonging from a hate movement is more common than most people realize and very disturbing,” Segal told the AP.
“Accessing a world of hate online today is as easy as it was tuning into Saturday morning cartoons on television.”
— With files from the Associated Press
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