House of worship receives bomb threat in swatting call

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A Hopewell Township house of worship was evacuated after its spiritual leader received an emailed bomb threat Dec. 17, according to the Hopewell Township Police Department.

The email, which was received at 9:43 a.m., stated that there were multiple explosives hidden throughout the building – which was occupied when the email was received – and that the bombs would detonate within a few hours, police said.

Police officers were dispatched and helped the staff to evacuate the building. The Pennington Police Department, the Pennington Fire Department and Squad 154 helped to take the occupants to an off-site reunification point while police searched the building.

The Mercer County Sheriff’s Office provided a K9 explosives detecting unit that searched the building and the surrounding area, police said. No bombs or explosive devices were found.

Police determined that the email was one of many emails sent to houses of worship in New Jersey and across the United States. The emailed bomb threat did not have a specific connection to the house of worship, which police declined to identify.

The Har Sinai Congregation said later that it was the house of worship that received the bomb threat.

Hundreds of synagogues and Jewish institutions across the United States received emailed bomb threats over the weekend, according to published reports. None of the threats were deemed credible.

The Secure Community Network, which coordinates security for Jewish institutions, said Dec. 17 that it had tracked 199 threats in the preceding 24 hours, according to reports on the Jewish Telegraphic Agency at www.jta.org.

The Hopewell Township Police Department is continuing to investigate the incident. Multiple federal, state and county agencies are involved in the investigation.

Anyone with information about the incident is asked to contact Hopewell Township police Detective Michael Makwinski at (609) 737-3100, ext. 5790.