Teen charged in NJ synagogue threats claims hate manifesto ‘live-action role-playing’
NEWARK — An 18-year-old Middlesex County man is accused of spreading an anti-Semitic manifesto on the internet containing threats against a synagogue and Jewish people that prompted an FBI alert last week.
Omar Alkattoul, 18, of Sayreville, is charged with one count of transmitting a threat in interstate and foreign commerce, according to a criminal complaint. He was arrested Thursday morning.
“No one should be targeted for violence or with acts of hate because of how they worship,” U.S. Attorney Philip Sellinger said.
Federal prosecutors say that Alkattoul used a social media platform on Nov. 1 to send a manifesto that contained a threat to attack a synagogue based on his hatred of Jews.
On Nov. 3, the FBI announced it had “received credible information of a broad threat to synagogues” in New Jersey and urged communities to take security precautions. The next morning, the FBI said it had “identified the source of the threat who no longer poses a danger."
Rabbi David Levy, director of the American Jewish Committee's office in New Jersey, in a statement, condemned the threats and thanked law enforcement.
“There can be no place for threats of violence against houses of worship in our society," Levy said. "We remain deeply grateful to the FBI, the Joint Terrorism Task Force, the US Attorney’s Office and other law enforcement agencies for their dedicated and successful response to this threat and the great care they have taken to ensure the safety of the New Jersey Jewish community.”
Manifesto targets NJ synagogue
According to an affidavit, a consensual search of Alkattoul's iPhone on Nov. 4 found he had been communicating with another person on a social media app regarding a document he had been writing.
“I actually started writing it a long time ago. If you want I will link it. It’s in the context of an attack on Jews,” Alkattoul wrote, FBI special agent Jamie Aiello said in the criminal complaint.
The manifesto, titled “When Swords Collide,” includes an introduction that said “I am the attacker” and that “I did target a synagogue for a really good reason according to myself and a lot of Muslims who have a brain."
The document names deceased Al-Qaeda leaders as "heroes" including Osama Bin Laden and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Aiello stated. It also contains sections on the Holocaust, anti-Semitism, and "the 'good' Jews," which states, "Good jews do not exist unless if they convert to Islam."
On Nov. 5, one day after the FBI publicly announced the threat had subsided and its source was identified, another person came forward to law enforcement to say Alkattoul had shared a link to the document with at least five people through a second social media application, Aiello said.
Aiello said that the individual said Alkattoul at one point said he wanted to kill in an “act of revenge” for the death of Muslims but later said he no longer wanted to do it.
'Joking' about anti-Semitism, terrorist acts?
According to Aiello, Alkottoul told law enforcement during an interview that in September, he used a social media app to communicate with people who urged him to carry out an attack. Alkottoul said he made comments in the group chat that he would punch or curb-stomp the next gay person he saw and throw a Molotov cocktail at a Jewish person.
The complaint states Alkottoul defended the comments as being made in a joking manner and that he was "LARP-ing," an acronym for live-action role-playing. Alkottoul insisted he did not “have the balls” to carry out the threats, according to Aiello.
After his interview with law enforcement, Alkottoul was transported to a hospital. According to Aiello, he insisted to a hospital employee that most of the comments were role-play.
However, he then stated that the only thing he was not joking about was his desire to plan an attack on a synagogue, Aiello said.
Alkattoul is scheduled to appear this afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jessica Allen in Newark federal court.