New Jersey teen charged with threatening to attack synagogues

A teen from Sayreville has been charged with posting a broad online threat against synagogues in New Jersey, U.S. Attorney Philip Sellinger announced.

Authorities say Omar Alkattoul, 18, was arrested Thursday morning. He has been charged with one count of transmitting a threat in interstate and foreign commerce. 

"No one should be targeted for violence or with acts of hate because of how they worship," Sellinger said. "According to the complaint, this defendant used social media to send a manifesto containing a threat to attack a synagogue based on his hatred of Jews. Along with our federal, state and local law enforcement partners, we acted swiftly to respond to the alleged threat."

Alkattoul is accused of posting the manifesto threatening to attack a synagogue because of his hatred for Jews. 

The Justice Department released the text of the manifesto. 

"I am the attacker and I would like to introduce myself… I am a Muslim with so many regrets but I can assure you this attack is not one of them," the manifesto stated. "I did target a synagogue for a really good reason according to myself and a lot of Muslims who have a brain."

"This attack was just to remind the Jews that as long as 1 Muslim remains in this world they will never live a pleasant life until the Muslims in Palestine, Syria, West Africa, and South Asia are living a pleasant life," the screed continued.

"On Nov. 1, 2022, Alkattoul used a social media application to send an individual a link to a document entitled ‘When Swords Collide' and admitted to this individual that he wrote the document, stating: ‘It’s in the context of an attack on Jews,’" the Justice Department said in a news release. "According to a second individual, Alkattoul also sent the document to at least five other people using another social media application."

FBI agents do not believe Alkattoul was planning to carry out a specific plot, a law enforcement official said last Friday.

Law enforcement authorities questioned him last week and don't believe he had the means or motive to carry out any specific attack, The Associated Press reported. The man told federal agents that he was angry with Jewish people because he'd been bullied in the past, a source told The AP. 

The FBI's Newark Field Office, which first announced the threat last Thursday, posted a statement on Twitter just after 11 a.m. Friday that the "source of the threat" was no longer a danger.

"Upon receipt of threat information against an unspecified New Jersey area synagogue, the FBI notified community leaders and our law enforcement partners. We identified the source of the threat who no longer poses a danger to the community," the FBI said in the statement. "As always, we would like to remind the public, to remain vigilant and if they observe suspicious activity to report it to law enforcement immediately."

Gov. Phil Murphy thanked the FBI and law enforcement for "mitigating the immediate threat to our Jewish synagogues."

"While this specific threat may be mitigated, we know this remains a tense time for our Jewish communities who are facing a wave of anti-Semitic activity. We will not be indifferent. We will remain vigilant. We will take any and every threat with the utmost seriousness and we will stand up and stand shoulder to shoulder with our Jewish congregations," Murphy said in a statement. "This threat violated one of the most fundamental tenets of our nation – the right to worship according to the dictates of our consciences and our sacred and holy traditions. We will always endeavor to ensure that every New Jerseyan of every faith may continue to live, study, and worship without fear for their safety."

Last week, the FBI's Newark office had said that it was investigating "credible information of a broad threat to synagogues" in New Jersey. "We ask at this time that you take all security precautions to protect your community and facility," FBI Newark tweeted.