American charged over online posts in religious terror attack in Australia

An American man has been charged with inciting a “religiously motivated terrorist attack” that killed six people in Australia a year ago, officials said Wednesday.

The FBI arrested the 58-year-old man in Heber Overgaard, Arizona, on Friday, accusing him of inciting the shooting with Christian extremist messages he sent to two of the people who carried out the shooting, police in Australia said at a news conference.

Three people, including two officers, were killed when police were ambushed at a rural property last year.

Constable Matthew Arnold, 26, and Constable Rachel McCrow, 29, were killed last Dec. 12 at a property in the village of Wieambilla, northwest of Brisbane, on Australia’s east coast. The officers had arrived to investigate reports of a missing person when they were met with a hail of gunfire, authorities said.

The attackers — relatives Gareth, Stacey and Nathaniel Train — engaged in an hourslong gun battle with the police before they were shot dead. A 58-year-old neighbor was also killed.

Queensland police constables Rachel McCrow and Matthew Arnold were killed in the shooting in Wieambilla, Australia.
Queensland police constables Rachel McCrow and Matthew Arnold were killed in the shooting in Wieambilla, Australia.Queensland Police

“We know that the offenders executed a religiously motivated terrorist attack in Queensland. They were motivated by a Christian extremist ideology and subscribed to the broad Christian fundamentalist belief system known as premillennialism,” Queensland Police Assistant Commissioner Cheryl Scanlon said at a joint news conference with the FBI’s legal attaché in Australia, Nitiana Mann.

Scanlon said the suspect “repeatedly” sent messages containing Christian end-of-days ideology to Gareth and Stacey Train from May 2021 to December 2022. Gareth Train had begun following the suspect on YouTube in May 2020, according to The Associated Press.

Scanlon added that the FBI is still investigating the suspect’s possible motive.

The suspect was arrested as the result of a joint investigation between the two countries, Mann said. Police did not release his name.

He was remanded in custody when he appeared in an Arizona court Tuesday, Scanlon said at the news conference. He could face a five-year prison sentence if he is convicted, according to the AP.

“The FBI has a long memory and an even longer reach. From Queensland, Australia, to the remote corners of Arizona,” Mann said.

“The FBI and QPS worked jointly and endlessly to bring this man to justice, and he will face the crimes he is alleged to have perpetrated,” she added.