Britain says Abbas Holocaust remarks ‘deeply concerning’

FILE PHOTO: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas waves in Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank May 1, 2018. Picture taken May 1, 2018. REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain said on Thursday that recent remarks by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on the Holocaust were “deeply concerning” and unhelpful to peace in the region.

Israel has accused Abbas of anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial after the Palestinian leader suggested in a speech that historic persecution of European Jews had been caused by their conduct.

“Palestinian President Abbas’s comments at the Palestinian National Congress were deeply concerning. Any attempt to justify or explain away any element of the Holocaust is unacceptable,” Britain’s Middle-East minister Alistair Burt said in a statement.

“President Abbas has shown a commitment to non-violence and a two-state solution. But his recent rhetoric does not serve the interests of the Palestinian people and is deeply unhelpful to the cause of peace.”

(Reporting by William James, editing by Estelle Shirbon)

Israeli-U.S. teen indicted for bomb threats, hate crimes: U.S. Justice Department

FILE PHOTO: A U.S.-Israeli teen arrested in Israel on suspicion of making bomb threats against Jewish community centres in the United States, Australia and New Zealand over the past three months, is escorted by security personnel following his remand hearing at Magistrate's Court in Rishon Lezion, Israel March 23, 2017. REUTERS/Baz Ratner/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A 19-year-old man has been indicted for hate crimes connected to threats against Jewish community centers, as well as threatening the Israeli embassy and cyberstalking, the U.S. Justice Department said on Wednesday.

Michael Kadar was arrested in Israel last year and is awaiting trial there. U.S. and Israeli authorities have previously charged him with making thousands of threats, including to airports, schools and Jewish centers, in the United States in 2016 and early 2017.

Kadar, who holds dual U.S.-Israeli citizenship, was indicted by grand juries in Florida, Georgia and the District of Columbia for making threats from January to March 2017, the Justice Department said in a statement.

The statement did not say whether he would be extradited to the United States.

Kadar is alleged to have telephoned the Anti-Defamation League with a bomb threat and making a bomb threat in an email to the Israeli embassy in Washington, both in March 2017, the Justice Department said.

Kadar, who is Jewish, was indicted for allegedly calling police in January 2017 about a hoax hostage situation at a home in Athens, Georgia, which included a threat to kill responding officers. Kadar also faces a federal cyberstalking indictment in Georgia.

In Florida, Kadar was charged with making multiple threatening calls about bomb threats and gun attacks against Jewish community centers throughout the state in January and February 2017. He also is alleged to have made bomb threats against the Orlando International Airport and a school.

The hoax threats to the Jewish community centers forced widespread evacuations and raised fears of a resurgence in anti-Semitism.

U.S. authorities have said in court documents that Kadar advertised his services on AlphaBay, a now-closed online black market, and offered to threaten any school for $30. The Justice Department shut AlphBay down in July 2017.

Israeli authorities have accused him of earning about $240,000 worth of the digital currency Bitcoin after selling his threat services on the dark web.

Kadar’s parents have said he has a brain tumor that caused autism and other mental problems, making him unable to understand the nature of his actions.

If convicted, Kadar faces up to 20 years in prison for each hate crime charge and a maximum of 10 years for each bomb threat charge. The interstate threats charge, the hoax charge and cyberstalking charge call for up to five years in prison apiece.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Peter Cooney)

Israel indicts U.S.-Israeli teen over bomb threats

An U.S.-Israeli teen, who was arrested in Israel on suspicion of making bomb threats against Jewish community centres in the United States, Australia and New Zealand, arrives before the start of a remand hearing at Magistrate's Court in Rishon Lezion, Israel April 20, 2017. REUTERS/ Amir Cohen

By Jeffrey Heller

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – An Israeli-American teenager was indicted in Israel on Monday on allegations he made thousands of hoax bomb calls, some targeting U.S. Jewish community centers, and earned $240,000 by offering to phone in threats against schools, hospitals and planes.

The arrest of the suspect, who is Jewish, in Israel on March 23 drew headlines when he was identified by police as having been behind bomb threats against the centers in the United States that had raised fears of a surge in anti-Semitism.

An indictment filed in the Tel Aviv District Court pointed to a threat-for-profit motive by the 18-year-old, who prosecutors said used electronic voice-altering equipment and a long-range WiFi antenna to cover his online tracks.

The suspect, the charge sheet alleged, had the equivalent of about $240,000 in his Bitcoin account earned via make-a-threat services he offered on the “Darknet”, which includes members-only websites that are not available to the general public.

The teen’s U.S.-born mother and Israeli father say their son, who moved to Israel aged 5 and lives with them in the southern city of Ashkelon, is autistic and suffers from a brain tumor that affects his behavior. No plea has been entered.

“He has high-level autism. I appeal to the world on his behalf for forgiveness for he does not know what he has done,” his mother told reporters. “This tumor has caused a state of some type of mental dysfunction that he is not aware of what he is doing. My son does not hate anyone.”

Israeli prosecutors said the suspect made bomb and shooting threats against some 2,000 institutions, including schools, shopping malls, police stations, airlines and airports in North America, Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Norway and Denmark.

The threats forced the evacuation of many Jewish community centers, including some with facilities for infants and young children. They also prompted criticism of U.S. President Donald Trump for what some Jewish groups saw as an inadequate response from his administration. He condemned the incidents in a speech to Congress in February.

PRICE LIST

According to a price list posted by the suspect, customers could order a threat of a “massacre at a private home” for $40, a call threatening a “school massacre” for $80 and a bomb threat against an airliner for $500, the indictment said.

“The accused even asked customers to contact him if they had special requests for threats against other targets and to receive a customized quote,” according to the charge sheet.

One bomb hoax targeted a plane in which the Boston Celtics basketball team was traveling in December 2016, and another was made against Delaware state Senator Ernesto Lopez, who apparently drew the teen’s attention by denouncing threats made against JCCs, the prosecutors said.

If convicted in Israel, he faces up to 10 years in jail, prosecutor Jonathan Hadad told Reuters after charges were filed in the court. Israeli authorities withheld his name because he was a minor when some of the alleged crimes were committed.

Separate criminal complaints filed on Friday in U.S. federal courts in Florida and Georgia that linked the suspect to hundreds of hoax calls between 2015 and 2017 identified him as Michael Ron Kadar.

A judicial source said that at present, Israel had not received a formal extradition request from the United States. The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation took part in the probe.

“There have been contacts regarding the matter but as of now our position is not to extradite for many reasons,” the source said. “He was a minor when he committed some of the offences, the threats were made in Israel too and in other countries, not just in the United States, and there are also claims as to his mental state.”

(Additional reporting by Maayan Lubell; Editing by Luke Baker and Catherine Evans)

Suspect in threats against Jewish groups appears in U.S. court

The residence of Juan M Thompson is seen after it was searched by police in connection with his arrest on charges of bomb threats made against Jewish organizations across the United States, in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S. March 3, 2017. REUTERS/Lawrence Bryant

By Brendan Pierson and Jonathan Allen

NEW YORK (Reuters) – A former journalist charged with making a wave of bomb threats to U.S. Jewish organizations by telephone while posing as his ex-girlfriend appeared in Manhattan federal court on Wednesday afternoon.

Juan Thompson, 31, was arrested in St. Louis earlier this month and arrived in New York on Wednesday morning. He appeared wearing beige prison garb and flanked by two public defenders at a brief hearing before Magistrate Judge James Francis.

The public defender assigned by Francis to represent Thompson, Mark Gombiner, did not seek bail at the hearing and declined to say afterward when he might. Thompson will remain in custody for now.

Thompson is scheduled to appear again before U.S. District Judge Kevin Castel on April 6.

Prosecutors say Thompson used fake email accounts to impersonate his ex-girlfriend when he sent the bomb threats. The threats were the culmination of months of harassment against the ex-girlfriend that began after she broke up with him last July, they said.

Thompson was a reporter for the Intercept news website until he was fired last year for allegedly inventing sources and quotes.

Before his extradition to New York, he said he was being framed and targeted as a black man.

“Make no mistake: this is a modern-day lynching,” he said in a telephone interview from the Warren County jail in Missouri. “The allegations are false.”

Thompson said he had no anti-Semitic beliefs.

U.S. authorities have been investigating a surge of threats against Jewish organizations, including more than 100 bomb threats against community centers in dozens of states in separate waves since January.

The threats have stoked fears of a resurgence in anti-Semitism and forced the evacuation of many Jewish community centers, including some with daycare for young children.

The organizations Thompson threatened include a Jewish museum in New York and the Anti-Defamation League, according to a criminal complaint in Manhattan federal court. All occurred after the first flood of phone threats in early January.

Last week, an 18-year-old dual Israeli and U.S. citizen was arrested in Israel on suspicion of making dozens of hoax bomb threats to Jewish centers in the United States, Australia and New Zealand. His name was not disclosed.

His motives were not immediately clear. At a court hearing near Tel Aviv, the suspect’s defense lawyer, Galit Bash, said the young man had a growth in his head that causes behavioral problems.

(Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Matthew Lewis)

Investigators say threats to Jewish groups in U.S. and UK are linked

An American flag still stands next to one of over 170 toppled Jewish headstones at Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery in University City, Missouri. REUTERS/Tom Gannam

By Mark Hosenball

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Scotland Yard and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are investigating more than a hundred bomb threats made to Jewish groups in the United States and Britain since Jan. 7, U.S. and UK law enforcement and Jewish community officials said.

Investigators said there is evidence that some of the U.S. and British bomb threats are linked. According to people in both countries who have listened to recordings of the threats, most of the them have been made over the telephone by men and women with American accents whose voices are distorted by electronic scramblers.

Waves of threats against U.S. Jewish groups – including community centers, schools, and offices of national organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) civil rights group – have been followed within hours by similar but smaller waves against Jewish organizations, mainly schools, in Britain, Jewish community representatives in both countries said.

FBI officials in Washington confirmed that the agency is investigating the threats against U.S. Jewish organizations. Sources in Britain’s Jewish community said London’s Metropolitan Police, otherwise known as Scotland Yard, is conducting its own investigation and collaborating with the FBI.

Scotland Yard did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment.

Some of the most recent threats were called in Tuesday to ADL offices in Atlanta, Boston, New York, and Washington. White House spokesman Sean Spicer said President Donald Trump’s administration would “continue to condemn them and look at ways to stop them.”

NO BOMBS FOUND

The threats, 140 of them in the United States alone, according to Jewish community leaders, usually have involved callers claiming that improvised explosive devices have been placed outside the buildings that have been threatened.

However, no homemade bombs have been found outside any of the threatened premises in either the United States or the UK, community officials said.

Earlier this month, all 100 U.S. senators signed a letter to Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and FBI Director James Comey expressing concern that the wave of threats will put innocent people at risk and threaten the finances of Jewish institutions.

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan filed charges against Juan Thompson, a former writer for the investigative website The Intercept, earlier this month alleging that he was responsible for at least eight threats emailed to Jewish community centers as “part of a sustained campaign to harass and intimidate” a woman with whom he had a romantic relationship.

The Intercept, a news website, had fired Thompson months earlier for allegedly fabricating quotes.

Jewish community officials in the United States and Britain said they think the threats that investigators linked to Thompson were not related to the larger campaign against Jewish organizations in their countries.

(Reporting By Mark Hosenball; Editing by John Walcott and Jonathan Oatis)

New bomb threats made against Jewish centers across U.S., Canada

A firefighter rolls up a hose after a threat made to the Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre was deemed a hoax in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, March 7, 2017. REUTERS/Chris Helgren

By Laila Kearney

NEW YORK (Reuters) – A new round of bomb threats against Jewish community centers across the United States and in Canada forced lockdowns and evacuations on Tuesday, and all 100 U.S. senators asked the federal government to help them enhance security.

Threats were phoned in or emailed to JCCs in states including New York, Wisconsin, Illinois and Florida overnight and early on Tuesday. Centers in Toronto and elsewhere in Ontario also said they were threatened.

U.S. federal authorities have been investigating a surge of threats against Jewish organizations, including more than 100 hoax bomb threats in five separate waves in January and February against JCCs in dozens of states.

The Trump Administration denounced the newest round of threats “in the strongest terms,” White House spokesman Sean Spicer told a news briefing.

“As long as they do continue, we’ll continue to condemn them and look at ways in which we can stop them,” Spicer said.

Tuesday’s incidents appeared unconnected to the majority of previous threats, according to the Secure Community Network, which provides security expertise to Jewish groups.

A letter signed by all 100 U.S. senators was sent on Tuesday to top U.S. law enforcement officials asking that they help Jewish groups enhance security.

“We are concerned that the number of incidents is accelerating and failure to address and deter these threats will place innocent people at risk and threaten the financial viability of JCCs,” the letter said.

One arrest was made last week, when a former journalist was charged in St. Louis with using fake email accounts to threaten to bomb Jewish sites while posing as his ex-girlfriend. But he is not believed to be responsible for the majority of threats.

Threats came in to Jewish centers and day schools on Tuesday in cities including Chicago, Milwaukee and the greater Rochester area in upstate New York.

The Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish civil rights organization, also said it received bomb threats at four of its locations.

In addition to violent threats, some Jewish organizations received harassing phone calls. At the East Midwood Jewish Center in Brooklyn, police said, an anonymous caller threatened to spray the center’s synagogue with pig’s blood.

“We’ve never seen such a period of concentrated threats against the Jewish community,” New York Mayor Bill de Blasio told a news conference. “The last few weeks are more troubling than anything I’ve seen in many, many years.”

(Additional reporting by Joseph Ax in New York and Timothy McLaughlin in Chicago; Editing by Dan Grebler and Jonathan Oatis)

FCC approves waivers to track Jewish center threats

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) logo is seen before the FCC Net Neutrality hearing in Washington February 26, 2015. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Federal Communications Commission is granting an emergency temporary waiver to Jewish community centers and telecommunications carriers that serve them to help track down callers who have made threats, the agency said on Friday.

Jewish community centers and schools in at least 13 U.S. states have reported receiving bomb threats this year, stoking fears of a resurgence of anti-Semitism.

“This agency must and will do whatever it can to combat the recent wave of bomb threats against Jewish Community Centers,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement. “I am pleased that we are taking quick action to address this issue and hope that this waiver will help Jewish Community Centers, telecommunications carriers, and law enforcement agencies track down the perpetrators of these crimes.”

U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, on Wednesday urged Pai to grant a waiver to access phone numbers used to call in threats and “help bring criminals to justice.”

Schumer’s letter said bomb threats were simultaneously made to JCCs in 11 states on Monday – the fifth wave of threats in the past two months.

The letter noted that the Middletown School District in New York state was inundated last year by phone calls making terrorism threats from anonymous numbers. In that case, then-FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler worked to approve a special waiver to access the caller information of the individuals making the threats, Schumer said.

On Friday, U.S. prosecutors said a disgraced former journalist, Juan Thompson, made eight bomb threats to Jewish organizations across the United States, including one in which he called for a “Jewish Newtown,” posing as an ex-girlfriend to retaliate after she had broken up with him.

Authorities are examining more than 100 threats made against JCCs by phone in five waves this year. Officials say these appear unrelated to the allegations against Thompson, who was arrested in St. Louis.

The government’s granting of waivers to access caller information has been rare.

FCC rules generally require phone companies to respect a calling party’s request to have its caller-ID information blocked from the party receiving the call, Pai said. A waiver of this rule may help the community centers and law enforcement identify abusive and potentially dangerous callers.

Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey met with Jewish leaders on Friday morning to discuss the ongoing investigation.

(Editing by Matthew Lewis)

St. Louis man charged over bomb threats to Jewish groups

By Joseph Ax

NEW YORK (Reuters) – A disgraced former journalist made eight bomb threats to Jewish organizations across the United States, including one in which he called for a “Jewish Newtown,” posing as an ex-girlfriend to retaliate after she had broken up with him, U.S. prosecutors said on Friday.

Juan Thompson, 31, was taken into custody on Friday morning in St. Louis, the first arrest to result from a federal investigation into a surge of threats against Jewish Community Centers (JCCs) and schools that has rattled American Jews.

Authorities are examining more than 100 threats made against JCCs by phone in five waves this year, which appear to be unrelated to the Thompson allegations. Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey met with Jewish leaders on Friday morning to discuss the ongoing investigation.

A criminal complaint filed in federal court in Manhattan accused Thompson of making threats, mostly by email, against organizations including a Jewish museum in New York and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). All occurred after the first flood of phone threats in early January.

The hoax threats against JCCs have stoked fears of a resurgence in anti-Semitism and forced many centers to be evacuated, including some with day care for young children.

Prosecutors said Thompson aimed to portray his ex-girlfriend as an anti-Semite, a characterization he repeated on Twitter. It was unclear if he shared those sentiments, and his recent posts did not include explicit anti-Semitic thoughts.

But the ADL said he had been “on the radar” due to activities, including “rants against white people.”

Thompson was a reporter for the Intercept, a news website, until he was fired last year for allegedly inventing sources and quotes.

Intercept editor Betsy Reed said in a statement that the website was “horrified” by his arrest.

‘NASTY RACIST WHITE GIRL’

The Intercept said in February 2016 that Thompson had employed a fake email account to pose as a source in an effort to hide his fabrications.

After his girlfriend broke up with him in July 2016, prosecutors said, Thompson used the same technique in a sustained harassment campaign against her.

A day after the relationship ended, Thompson sent an email purporting to be from a producer at a national news organization to her boss at a social service company in New York, according to the complaint. The email claimed she had been pulled over for drunk driving and sued for spreading a sexually transmitted disease.

In the following weeks, the woman received messages from a supposed relative of Thompson, falsely claiming Thompson was on his deathbed after a shooting.

Thompson later threatened to publicize nude photos of her, prosecutors said. He also sent a message to a national children’s welfare organization, claiming she admitted watching child pornography.

In late January, Thompson began emailing bomb threats to Jewish groups using his own name and then accused her on Twitter of having framed him. He also sent threats pretending to be her, according to the complaint.

The “Jewish Newtown” email apparently referred to the massacre of 26 children and educators at a Connecticut school in 2012.

On Feb. 24, he posted on Twitter, “Know any good lawyers? Need to stop this nasty/racist #whitegirl I dated who sent a bomb threat in my name.”

Thompson was due to appear in federal court in St. Louis later Friday on one count of cyberstalking. It was not clear whether he had a lawyer.

The ex-girlfriend could not be reached for comment.

Authorities said they were still investigating the rash of threats against JCCs, as well as the desecration of headstones at Jewish cemeteries in Philadelphia, St. Louis and Rochester, New York.

St. Louis police will question Thompson about the city’s graveyard vandalism, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

(Additional reporting by Jonathan Allen and Gina Cherelus in New York and Dustin Volz in Washington; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Jeffrey Benkoe)

Jewish cemetery vandalized in New York, third case in two weeks

Local and national media report on more than 170 toppled Jewish headstones after a weekend vandalism attack on Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery in University City, a suburb of St Louis, Missouri, U.S. February 21, 2017. REUTERS/Tom Gannam

By Jonathan Allen

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The vandalism of more than a dozen headstones at a Jewish cemetery in Rochester is being investigated by a New York hate crime task force, the third known case of a Jewish cemetery desecration in the country in the last two weeks.

Democratic New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said he ordered the investigation at Waad Hakolel Cemetery given the wave of bomb threats that later proved hoaxes targeting Jewish community centers and vandalism at Jewish cemeteries in Philadelphia and St. Louis.

U.S. President Donald Trump, a Republican, has condemned the threats and attacks, although he has at times also questioned whether some perpetrators might be opponents of his seeking to link his new presidency with a rise in anti-Semitism.

Trump’s election campaign last year drew support from some white nationalists and right-wing groups, despite his disavowals of them.

Besides the toppling of headstones at the Rochester cemetery, images of the deceased embedded on at least half a dozen headstones had been scratched away, although it was not clear how long ago, said Karen Elam, the director of community relations at the Jewish Federation of Greater Rochester.

“It’s clear vandalism,” she said in a telephone interview after touring the cemetery on Thursday afternoon to photograph the damage. “Any vandalism of a Jewish cemetery is de facto anti-Semitism.”

Michael Phillips, president of the non-profit organization that oversees the cemetery, told the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle newspaper that there was no proof the vandalization was a case of anti-Semitism, citing the smaller scale of the damage in Rochester.

About 100 headstones were knocked over at a Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia last weekend, and about 170 headstones were knocked over in a Jewish cemetery in St. Louis.

Officials at the cemetery in Rochester did not return calls seeking comment. In 2014, vandals toppled more than 40 headstones at another Jewish cemetery near Rochester, but local police concluded the vandalism was not motivated by anti-Semitism, the Democrat & Chronicle reported.

(Reporting by Jonathan Allen; Editing by David Gregorio and Lisa Shumaker)

Chicago man faces hate crime charge in synagogue vandalism

CHICAGO (Reuters) – A Chicago man has been arrested and charged with a felony hate crime for allegedly smashing the window of a city synagogue and putting swastika stickers on its front door, police said on Wednesday.

Stuart Wright, 31, was arrested by the Chicago Police Department on Tuesday. He has been charged with one felony count of hate crime to a church or synagogue and one felony count of criminal damage.

Wright is scheduled to appear in a Chicago bond court on Thursday, police said in a statement.

Police said Wright smashed the large front window of the Chicago Loop Synagogue early on Saturday and affixed swastika stickers to the building’s front doors.

The attack, which was captured on surveillance video, was condemned by Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner.

There have been a number of hate and bias incidents reported recently in the United States. In January, a fire gutted a Texas mosque, with federal law enforcement officials ruling it arson.

On Sunday, a story about subway riders in New York working together to clean up neo-Nazi graffiti went viral on social media.

(Reporting by Timothy Mclaughlin in Chicago; Editing by Peter Cooney#)