A young Israeli man who also holds U.S. citizenship was arrested by Israeli police Thursday in connection with the wave of security-related threats made to Jewish communities and institutions in the United States and several other countries over the past few months, according to the FBI and local authorities.
Israeli police said in a statement that the cyberattack squad of its fraud unit had worked together with the FBI, including representatives who went to Israel, and police organizations from other countries to track the suspect, who is 19 years old.
Authorities said the suspect seemed to be behind the bulk of the threats, though it was unclear exactly how many. Earlier this month, the bureau arrested a former journalist, Juan Thompson, who they said was responsible for at least eight cases. Authorities described his menacing calls as part of his campaign to harass a woman.
The threats across the U.S. have forced people to vacate dozens of Jewish Community Centers, schools, offices and day-care centers, fostering fears about anti-Semitism nationwide. And even after Thompson’s arrest earlier this month, the threats continued.
According to Israeli newspaper Haaretz, the man arrested more recently is likely behind a bomb threat at a Jewish institution in New Zealand in 2016. Police in New Zealand identified the IP address as originating from Israel, Haaretz said.
At first Israeli police could not locate the suspect but then there were reports of threats at 16 Jewish centers in nine U.S. states — Florida, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Tennessee, Georgia, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and North Carolina.
Delta Air Lines also received a bomb threat one of its planes, causing one of its planes to make an emergency landing.
The FBI handed over the information to the Israel police after finding these threats had originated from Israel, Haaretz reported.
“The investigation began in several countries simultaneously after 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 Israel police said in a statement.
“The result of the threats made by the suspect had caused damage to the communities and to their security and in one case when threats were made by the suspect, he caused an airline to make an emergency landing.”
The Israel police said the suspect had used advanced camouflage technologies when contacting the institutions and making those threats. The youth’s computers were seized and he was brought in for arraignment before an Israeli court.
(c) 2017, The Washington Post · Ruth Eglash, Matt Zapotosky