‘He was talking to bad people.’ Sayreville HS senior faces charges for threats made against synagogues
An 18-year-old Sayreville High School student is facing federal charges over threats against New Jersey synagogues in online posts.
A criminal complaint released on Thursday states that Omar Alkattoul told FBI agents that he also considered an attack on a synagogue in New York.
The FBI issued a statewide alert on Nov. 3 and announced a suspect had been identified the next day, but they did not identify Alkattoul at that time. The warning prompted some municipalities across the state to send extra police officers to guard houses of worship and schools.
Alkattoul was arrested around 6 a.m. Thursday at the Winding Wood apartment complex where he lives with his family.
"He's just a kid. He was playing on the computer. He was talking to bad people. That's what happened,” says father Mousa Alkattoul.
The family says the FBI showed up at their home last Thursday and questioned their son for three hours about the alleged threats.
Federal officials say that Alkattoul was posting messages on the social media app Telegram Messenger. It was there where he allegedly made threats against synagogues and Jewish people.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office says that Alkattoul posted a “manifesto” on Nov. 1.
He allegedly wrote in one section, "Good Jews do not exist unless if they convert to Islam…I hate Jews based on their actions and their religion that justifies the actions they do."
In another titled section titled, "The Heroes," Alkattoul allegedly wrote, "...when I say, ‘heroes and lions,’ I am referring to Osama Bin Laden, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Abu Bakr.”
Officials also say that Alkattoul considered an attack on a synagogue in New York but would need two years to prepare for such an attack.
Multiple neighbors to the family News 12 New Jersey that they often saw the teen and because of his erratic behavior and comments, they believed he was dealing with mental health issues.
Mousa Alkattoul says that his son does well in school and has a good life at home.
“I don't know what is going to happen, but I’m worried about him,” he says.
Omar Alkattoul is charged with one count of transmitting a threat in interstate and foreign commerce.
The Associated Press wire services contributed to this report.