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Israel charges teenager accused of US bomb threats

The charges follow a wave of bomb threats to Jewish institutions in the US

Police officers search the Jewish Community Center of Southern Nevada in Las Vegas after an employee received a suspicious phone call that led about 10 people to evacuate on 27 February (AFP)

Prosecutors charged an Israeli-American teenager on Monday with making more than 2,000 threats against Jewish institutions, airlines, police stations and even a professional basketball team's plane, Israel's justice ministry said.

The charges follow a wave of bomb threats to Jewish institutions in the United States that helped spread fears over whether anti-Semitism was rising in the country.

A justice ministry statement said that the 18-year-old from the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon was also charged with extortion, money laundering, assaulting a police officer, drug trafficking and possessing paedophile pornography.

Among the threats he is accused of making was one against a plane flying the Boston Celtics US basketball team to a game and another against Delaware state senator Ernesto Lopez.

He is also suspected of making a hoax bomb call to Delta Airlines in February 2015 which led to an emergency landing, and another against an Israeli El Al flight over Switzerland.

The statement said Swiss and French warplanes were scrambled to escort the El Al plane and to shoot it down if it became evident that it would crash on Swiss soil.

The teenager is accused of being behind similar threats in New Zealand and Australia.

He was arrested on 23 March following an investigation that included the FBI and police forces from other countries.

His identity is under a court gag order in Israel, but the US Justice Department has named him as Michael Kadar.

Trial in Israel

He was charged in the United States on Friday with making threatening calls to Jewish community centres in Florida, conveying false information to police dispatch in Georgia and cyberstalking, the Justice Department said.

While the US and Israel have an extradition treaty, a justice ministry official told AFP on Monday that he would be tried in the Jewish state.

"He committed offences not only in the United States but also in a dozen other countries which have actively cooperated in the investigation," he said.

His motives are so far unknown, although his lawyers say he may not have been responsible for his actions as he has a brain tumour and suffers from autism.

He was a minor at the time of some of the offences, allegedly committed online and by phone.

A wave of bomb threats to American Jewish institutions since the start of the year helped spread fears of a surge in hate crimes and anti-Semitic acts in the United States.

Some have said that the rise of Donald Trump as US president encouraged the extreme right and emboldened hate groups.

The arrest of a Jewish teenager over many of the threats has complicated the debate, however.

Among the charges filed against the teen in a Tel Aviv court on Monday was making "threats and intimidation against more than 2,000 institutions worldwide: airports, airlines, police stations and others".

"In several cases, planes made emergency landings and flights were cancelled. In other cases, Jewish schools and institutions were evacuated and security forces were deployed in large numbers," the statement said.

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