5 arrested in alleged plot to blow up Cleveland-area bridge

LOS ANGELES — Five men, including three “self-proclaimed” anarchists, have been arrested in connection with a plot to blow up a bridge over the Cuyahoga Valley National Park south of downtown Cleveland, federal officials said Tuesday.

The men were arrested Monday and charged with conspiracy and the attempted use of explosive materials to damage physical property affecting interstate commerce, according to a criminal complaint filed in Ohio. All are scheduled to appear in U.S. District Court in Cleveland on Tuesday.

“The complaint in this case alleges that the defendants took specific and defined actions to further a terrorist plot,” U.S. Attorney Steven M. Dettelbach said in a prepared statement. “The defendants stand charged based not upon any words or beliefs they might espouse, but based upon their own plans and actions.”

Federal officials in Cleveland said the public was never in danger because the explosives were under the control of an FBI employee. There does not appear to be any connection with any international terrorist group or the first anniversary of the killing of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden by U.S. forces in a raid in Pakistan.

But the arrests came just before the annual celebration of May Day, the day of international demonstrations in honor of workers and left-wing movements.

According to federal officials’ announcement, Douglas L. Wright, 26, Brandon L. Baxter, 20, and Anthony Hayne, 35, were arrested Monday evening by members of the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force. The three are “self-proclaimed anarchists who formed into a small group and considered a series of evolving plots over several months,” the complaint alleges.

Also arrested were Connor C. Stevens, 20, and Joshua S. Stafford, 23, the government said.

Originally, the group had planned to use smoke grenades to distract law enforcement in order for the co-conspirators to topple signs for financial institutions atop high-rise buildings in downtown Cleveland, according to the complaint.

But the plot escalated to include explosive materials, the government alleges. The defendants conspired to obtain C-4 explosives for use in two improvised explosive devices, according to investigators.

The group discussed various targets in the Cleveland metropolitan area before targeting the Route 82 Brecksville-Northfield High Level Bridge. The bridge goes from Brecksville, Ohio, to Sagamore Hills, Ohio, over the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, according to the complaint.

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