Jewish Israeli suspected of making bomb threats against JCCs in the United States
JERUSALEM — A Jewish teenager was arrested Thursday in connection with a series of bomb threats that have rattled Jewish institutions and community centers across the US and other countries, Israeli police said.
A months-long international investigation led to the 19-year-old suspect, who used “advanced camouflage technologies” to cover his tracks, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.
The suspect holds dual American-Israeli citizenship, an Israeli security official told CNN. He was arrested in Israel after an undercover investigation with the FBI.
The threats were made against sites in the United States, Australia, and New Zealand. In one case, an airline had to make an emergency landing because of the threats, Rosenfeld said.
Law enforcement officials have told CNN they believe many of the threatening calls to Jewish community centers originated overseas.
Israeli police are still trying to determine the teen suspect’s motive.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions commended the FBI and Israeli National Police for their work on the case.
“Today’s arrest in Israel is the culmination of a large-scale investigation spanning multiple continents for hate crimes against Jewish communities across our country,” Sessions said in a statement. “The Department of Justice is committed to protecting the civil rights of all Americans, and we will not tolerate the targeting of any community in this country on the basis of their religious beliefs.”
Rampant threats in US
In the US alone, more than 100 bomb threats have been made this year against Jewish community centers and schools. Those threats were spread across 33 states.
A New York police official said earlier this month he believes most of the bomb threats were made by one person using technology to disguise his voice to sound like a woman’s; the other attacks were likely made by copycats.
Previous suspect arrested
On March 3, a fired reporter was arrested and accused of making at least eight of the bomb threats.
Juan Thompson, who was fired from the online news site The Intercept for fabricating quotes, made the threats in an attempt to intimidate someone after their romantic relationship ended, authorities said.
But the accusation against Thompson accounted for just a small fraction of the more than 100 bomb threats received by Jewish institutions so far this year, according to data from the JCC Association of North America.
Recently, there have been threats called into the JCC in West Hartford, Woodbridge and Hebrew High School of New England along with the others around the country. Security at the JCC and local synagogues has been increased after the recent threats.
A bomb threat was called into the JCC of Greater New Haven in Woodbridge on January 31, prompting that building to be evacuated. The CEO of the JCC of Greater New Haven, Judy Diamondstein, said they haven’t received any threats today, unlike the West Hartford JCC.
The Mandell JCC was evacuated once before due to the threat on January 18.
JCC leaders said that increased staff will be on hand during morning drop-off to help with traffic and visitors.
A St. Louis man and former reporter was arrested earlier this month for making some of the threats against Jewish community centers and other institutions that have been part of a surge of intimidation nationwide.
The Associated Press and CNN contributed to this report.