Jewish Center Bomb Threat Suspect Is Arrested in Israel

JERUSALEM — The police on Thursday arrested an Israeli teenager who holds American citizenship in connection with scores of threats to Jewish institutions, including dozens of community centers in the United States, law enforcement officials said.

A spokesman for the police here, Micky Rosenfeld, said the suspect, from the Ashkelon area of southern Israel, had also made threats to institutions in Australia and New Zealand, as well as to at least one commercial airline flight, forcing an emergency landing.

“This is the guy we are talking about,” Mr. Rosenfeld said.

The authorities did not immediately identify the teenager, who they said was Jewish and 19. Other reports put his age at 18. He was expected to appear in court later Thursday.

The suspect’s motives were not immediately clear. He was being questioned by the international investigations unit of the Israeli police.

The arrest took place after a monthslong investigation in cooperation with the F.B.I. and other police and security agencies in the United States and Europe, the Israeli police said in a statement.

“The investigation began in several countries at the same time, in which dozens of threatening calls were received at public places, events, synagogues and community buildings that caused panic and disrupted events and activities in various organizations,” the statement said.

Representatives of the F.B.I. and police organizations from various other countries arrived in Israel to take part in the investigation, the statement said, adding that technology was used to track the suspect down.

In Washington, the F.B.I. confirmed the arrest. A spokeswoman, Samantha Shero, said, “Investigating hate crimes is a top priority for the F.B.I., and we will continue to work to make sure all races and religions feel safe in their communities and in their places of worship.”

Jewish community centers across the United States have reported more than 100 bomb threats since the beginning of the year. The calls, which President Trump condemned during an address to Congress last month, led to evacuations and bomb sweeps and heightened worries about anti-Semitism in the United States.

The inquiry was complicated by what the authorities described as the suspect’s use of “advanced camouflage technologies” to try to cover up his communications, which he made through the internet. When the Israeli police searched the suspect’s house, investigators confiscated computers, an antenna and other equipment.

The suspect used a device to warp his voice when he made his threats and used wireless internet from neighbors, some quite far away, according to Israel Radio. The Haaretz newspaper reported that the suspect had not been drafted for compulsory military service, like most Jewish 18-year-olds, on personal grounds because the military found him unfit to serve.

The case in Israel is separate from that of the St. Louis man who was arrested this month and accused of making at least a half-dozen other threats to Jewish centers. In a complaint in Federal District Court in Manhattan, the authorities said that man, Juan Thompson, had acted as part of an effort to intimidate a former girlfriend.


By NY Times

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