An 18-year-old New Jersey man was arrested Thursday after sending a manifesto online with threats to attack a synagogue and Jewish people, federal prosecutors say.
Omar Alkattoul, a Sayreville resident, is charged with a count of transmitting a threat in interstate and foreign commerce earlier this month, according to a criminal complaint and a statement from Philip Sellinger, US Attorney for the District of New Jersey. His attorney has not yet been identified.
Alkattoul, who was scheduled to appear before US Magistrate Judge Jessica Allen in Newark Thursday afternoon, faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted, the statement said.
"No one should be targeted for violence or with acts of hate because of how they worship," Sellinger said in the statement. "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."
Court documents allege Alkattoul on November 1 sent via social media a link to a document titled "When Swords Collide" and told another person he authored the manifesto "in the context of an attack on Jews."
"I am the attacker and I would like to introduce myself," the suspect wrote, according to court documents.
In the document Alkattoul wrote that he "did target a synagogue for a really good reason" and said "the motive of this attack is hatred towards Jews and their heinous acts," according to the complaint.
The suspect shared the document with several people via an unnamed social media application, authorities said. One of those people informed law enforcement.
Alkattoul told authorities he wrote the document while "live action role playing" and "imagined being al-Qaeda and carrying out an attack," according to the complaint.
After being interviewed by law enforcement, Alkattoul was voluntarily transferred to a hospital for an examination, the complaint said.
At the hospital, the complaint alleges, the suspect told an employee that he had been communicating on social media "with someone he believed to be in al-Qaeda" and told them of his plan to eventually "blow up a synagogue."
CNN reported earlier this month about the broad threat to synagogues in New Jersey, and that an online antisemitic post in a forum frequented by extremists had prompted an FBI alert.
Authorities were alarmed because the post was written as if an attack had already occurred, according to sources. That factored significantly into the urgency of locating the suspect and also releasing the broad warning to the Jewish community, sources said.
The FBI in Newark tweeted on November 3 that it had received "credible information of a broad threat to synagogues" in the state.
While no specific target, timing or plan was mentioned, the nature of the post created enough concern that the FBI decided to issue a general warning out of an abundance of caution.
Over the past few years, antisemitic incidents have risen in the US, with 942 incidents in 2015 jumping to 2,717 tracked in 2021 by the Anti-Defamation League.