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Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Jewish Community Security Organization in UK Says It Discovered N.Y. Synagogue Threats

Christopher Brown, 21, of Aquebogue, N.Y., and Matthew Mahrer, 22, of Manhattan were arrested Saturday by MTA police at Penn Station.

A British charity dedicated to providing security advice and training to the Jewish community says it discovered and passed to their American counterparts the online threats that led to the arrest of two men charged with threatening New York synagogues.

Christopher Brown, 21, of Aquebogue, N.Y., and Matthew Mahrer, 22, of Manhattan were arrested Saturday by MTA police at Penn Station.

The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office said in a criminal complaint that the pair had acquired a Glock 17 handgun with high-capacity magazine in Pennsylvania and Brown had in his possession an 8-inch military-style knife, a ski mask, and an arm patch with a swastika. The gun was allegedly found at Mahrer’s apartment.

“A potential tragedy was averted when they were intercepted by police officers at Penn Station, given that online postings indicated an intent to use these weapons at a Manhattan synagogue,” Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said. “Hateful anti-Semitic targeting of synagogues is deplorable.”

Gov. Kathy Hochul tweeted that she directed New York State Police “to ramp up monitoring & increase support for communities that are potential targets of hate crimes” after recent threats to the Jewish and LGBTQ communities. “Here in New York, violence or bigotry will never be tolerated,” she added. “We stand united against hate.”

Prosecutors said that Brown tweeted Thursday, “Gonna ask a Priest if I should become a husband or shoot up a synagogue and die.”

Court documents don’t state whether a specific synagogue in the city was a target, but on Friday Brown tweeted, “This time I’m really gonna do it.”

The Community Service Trust (CST), a British organization that tracks antisemitic incidents, provides security advice and training to the Jewish community, and monitors online extremist activity, tweeted Sunday, “CST researchers working with our U.S. partners @Official_SCN @ADL @TheCSSorg have prevented a potential terrorist threat to the Jewish community in New York by providing information leading to the arrests of two men and seizure of weapons yesterday.”

SCN, or the Secure Community Network, and CSS, the Community Security Service, provide security assessments, training and support to the Jewish community in the United States.

“The arrests followed CST’s discovery on Friday of a string of violent threats posted on Twitter,” the British charity continued. “Initial investigation identified the probable location of the anonymous user & we passed the information to our U.S. partners. Thankfully the suspects were then identified & arrested.”

“Cooperation between Jewish communities around the world is necessary to combat the global terrorist threat we face and we will strive to work with our partners in the United States and other countries to protect all of our communities,” CST added.

CSS Chief Executive Officer Evan Bernstein, ADL NY/NJ Director Scott Richman, and Mitch Silber, executive director of the Community Security Initiative in New York, said in a joint statement Saturday that they had been in contact with federal and local law enforcement agencies over the previous 24 hours “regarding a specific threat to the New York-area Jewish community.”

“We are thankful for the work of the NYPD, FBI, Joint Terrorism Task Force, and MTA Police,” the trio said. “This comes at a time of heightened sensitivity in the New York-area Jewish community after an 18-year-old man was charged with sending threats to the Jewish community in New Jersey just two weeks earlier. As always, we ask the community to remain vigilant, but no further immediate community actions are needed at this time.”

Omar Alkattoul, 18, of Sayreville, N.J., was arrested Nov. 10 and charged with posting a manifesto online threatening to attack a synagogue and declaring that the “motive of this attack is hatred towards Jews and their heinous acts.”

“Today, we’re extremely grateful to NYPD investigators and our law enforcement partners who uncovered and stopped a threat to our Jewish community,” NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell tweeted Saturday. “This morning’s arrests in Penn Station and weapon seizures are proof of their vigilance & collaboration that keeps New Yorkers safe.”

Bridget Johnson
Bridget Johnson is the Managing Editor for Homeland Security Today. A veteran journalist whose news articles and analyses have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe, Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor and a foreign policy writer at The Hill. Previously she was an editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and syndicated nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. Bridget is a terrorism analyst and security consultant with a specialty in online open-source extremist propaganda, incitement, recruitment, and training. She hosts and presents in Homeland Security Today law enforcement training webinars studying a range of counterterrorism topics including conspiracy theory extremism, complex coordinated attacks, critical infrastructure attacks, arson terrorism, drone and venue threats, antisemitism and white supremacists, anti-government extremism, and WMD threats. She is a Senior Risk Analyst for Gate 15 and a private investigator. Bridget is an NPR on-air contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, New York Observer, National Review Online, Politico, New York Daily News, The Jerusalem Post, The Hill, Washington Times, RealClearWorld and more, and has myriad television and radio credits including Al-Jazeera, BBC and SiriusXM.

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