One week after receiving a broad threat to synagogues in New Jersey, a man from Middlesex County was arrested Thursday morning and faces up to five years in prison, officials said.
Omar Alkattoul, 18, from Sayreville, N.J., allegedly sent at least six people a manifesto through social media on Nov. 1 in which he identified as a Muslim and threatened to attack a synagogue based on a motive of “hatred towards Jews,” according to the U.S. Department of Justice. He was scheduled to appear before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jessica S. Allen in Newark federal court on Thursday afternoon.
Alkattoul was charged with one count of transmitting a threat in interstate and foreign commerce, the department said. Multiple sources reported late Thursday he was being held without bail.
“No one should be targeted for violence or with acts of hate because of how they worship,” U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger said in a statement. “There is nothing the U.S. attorney’s office takes more seriously than threats to our communities of faith and places of worship. Protection of these communities is core to this office’s mission, and this office will devote whatever resources are necessary to keep our Jewish community and all New Jersey residents safe.”
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, law enforcement searched Alkattoul’s iPhone on Nov. 4, when they allegedly confirmed he had sent the threat to several people.
The arrest came one week after the FBI issued a warning about a security risk at New Jersey synagogues after receiving a credible threat. On Wednesday, another bomb threat was made to the Jewish Community Center of Middlesex County in Edison.
People who issue threats in interstate and foreign commerce can face up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, according to the Department of Justice.
Antisemitic incidents went up 34% in 2021 compared to 2020, according to the Anti-Defamation League. There were 2,717 incidents reported last year, which was the highest the group had recorded since it began keeping track of antisemitic incidents in 1979.