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New Jersey man who posted threat to synagogues gets 15 months in prison

CAMDEN, N.J. (AP) — A New Jersey man who admitted posting a broad online threat aimed at synagogues and Jewish schools in the state last year was sentenced to 15 months in prison Tuesday.

U.S. District Judge Christine O'Hearn in Camden imposed the sentence on Omar Alkattoul, 19, of Sayreville who earlier pleaded guilty to transmitting a threat in interstate and foreign commerce. He had faced up to five years in prison.

Federal prosecutors have said Alkattoul expressed hatred of Jews and admitted posting online that “God cursed the Jewish people and God should burn gay people.” He also told investigators he had researched how to obtain a gun, shooting ranges and mass shootings but in the days before posting his threat was “about ‘50/50’” on whether he would actually carry out an attack.

“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.

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A message seeking comment was left with the public defender representing Alkattoul.

Authorities have said they did not believe Alkattoul had the means to carry out any specific attack.

Alkattoul used a social media app on Nov. 1, 2022, to send a link to a document entitled “When Swords Collide,” according to prosecutors, and he admitted to the person he sent it to that he wrote the document, stating: “It’s in the context of an attack on Jews.”

The FBI issued a statewide alert on Nov. 3 and announced a suspect had been identified the next day but did not identify him at that time. The warning prompted some municipalities across the state to send extra police officers to guard houses of worship and schools.

Public warnings about nonspecific threats against Jewish institutions, made by groups including Christian supremacists and Islamic extremists, aren’t unusual in the New York City area, and many turn out to be false alarms.

But the area has also seen deadly attacks, including the firebombings of two synagogues and an attack on a rabbi’s home in 2012, a fatal stabbing at a Hanukkah celebration in 2019, and a shooting that same year that killed three people in a kosher market and a police officer.