An 18-year-old eyed in a nonspecific but widescale threat against New Jersey synagogues that prompted a public warning from the FBI earlier this month now faces federal charges in the case, prosecutors said Thursday.
Omar Alkattoul, of Sayreville, allegedly transmitted a manifesto containing threats to attack a synagogue and Jewish people online, prompting a Nov. 3 Twitter warning to the public from the FBI's Newark office.
Alktattoul is charged with one count of transmitting a threat in interstate and foreign commerce on or about Nov. 1. Court papers allege he used a social media app to send someone a link to a document called "When Swords Collide." He allegedly admitted to the individual that he wrote the document, saying, "It's in the context of an attack on Jews."
The 18-year-old allegedly sent the document to at least five other people using another social media app. In the document, he wrote in part, "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," according to federal prosecutors.
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His writings continued in a similar tone, prosecutors say. Alktattoul allegedly described his motivation as "hatred towards Jews and their heinous acts." He also accused Jewish people of supporting terror attacks on Muslims.
Read the full complaint below.
Calls to defense attorney Timothy Donahue for comment on Alktatattoul's arrest weren't immediately returned.
He was arraigned Thursday in Newark federal court and faces up to five years in prison, along with a $250,000 fine, if convicted. The judge ordered him held without bail.
"No one should be targeted for violence or with acts of hate because of how they worship," U.S. Attorney Philip Sellinger said in a statement announcing the arrest. "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."
"There is nothing the U.S. Attorney’s Office takes more seriously than threats to our communities of faith and places of worship," Sellinger added. "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."
The FBI's abrupt Nov. 3 warning concerned many across the tri-state area. It didn't target any synagogue specifically, the agency said, adding that it opted to warn the public out of an abundance of caution, given recent spikes in antisemitism across the country.
Synagogues across the state were asked to remain vigilant, and police in some communities stepped up patrols.