WASHINGTON, Feb 24 — Three men pleaded guilty on Wednesday of planning to attack power grids as part of a white supremacist plot to sow chaos and spark a race war in the United States, the Justice Department said.

Christopher Cook, 20, Jonathan Frost, 24, and Jackson Sawall, 22, each pleaded guilty in a federal court in Ohio to one count of conspiring to provide material support to terrorists, the department said.

“These three defendants admitted to engaging in a disturbing plot, in furtherance of white supremacist ideology, to attack energy facilities in order to damage the economy and stoke division in our country,” Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen said in a statement.

Timothy Langan, assistant director of the FBI Counterterrorism Division, said the three “wanted to attack regional power substations and expected the damage would lead to economic distress and civil unrest.”

Frost and Cook met in an online chat group in the fall of 2019, according to court documents, and discussed the idea of attacking a power grid.

After recruiting Sawall, they were each assigned a substation in a different region of the United States with the plan to attack them with powerful rifles.

“The defendants believed their plan would cost the government millions of dollars and cause unrest for Americans in the region,” the Justice Department said.

“They had conversations about how the possibility of the power being out for many months could cause war, even a race war, and induce the next Great Depression,” it said.

According to court documents, Frost provided Cook and Sawall in February 2020 with suicide necklaces filled with fentanyl, which was to be ingested if they were caught by law enforcement.

During a traffic stop, Sawall swallowed his suicide pill but survived.

Cook and Frost drove to Texas the following month and continued to seek recruits for the plot until their arrest, according to court documents.

Law enforcement seized multiple pistols and rifles as well as hundreds of rounds of ammunition from the men.

They face up to 15 years in prison. Sentencing will be held at a later date. — AFP