Man arrested for hoax bomb threat at Statue of Liberty

2015-08-20 10:50
Jason Paul Smith. (File, AP)

Jason Paul Smith. (File, AP)

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New York - A man who used the name of a 1993 World Trade Centre bombing conspirator and threatened to "blow up" the Statue of Liberty in April, forcing the evacuation of Liberty Island, has been arrested, federal authorities announced on Wednesday.

Jason Paul Smith, who said in an emergency call he was Abdul Yasin, was arrested in Texas, where he's charged with conveying false and misleading information and hoaxes, authorities said.

Smith, of West Virginia, who is not actually Yasin, identified himself as the only conspirator not to be captured in the 1993 bombing, and said he was an "ISI terrorist" when he called police from his iPad to say "that 'we' were preparing to 'blow up' the Statue of Liberty," FBI special agent Alexander Hirst wrote in a complaint filed in federal court in New York.

Smith, aged 42, could face up to five years in prison if convicted. A federal public defender hasn't returned a message seeking comment on the case.

More than 3 200 people were removed by boats following the April 24 call, and bomb-sniffing dogs were brought in to make a sweep of the island before officials determined there were no explosives. The statue, one of the nation's most visited landmarks, reopened the next day.

Smith, who attended a school for the deaf and the blind, used a service for the hearing impaired to place the emergency call, Hirst wrote. Another 18 emergency calls were made Jan. 29-31 from an email address on his iPad, Hirst said.

FBI's list of most wanted

On May 18, two other emergency calls made via the calling service for the hearing impaired, one threatening to "blow up a bridge at Times Square" and another threatening to kill officers at the Brooklyn Bridge were made from an iPad at Smith's West Virginia address by a user who identified himself as an "ISIS allah Bomb maker," Hirst wrote.

Smith has a history of making threats and was convicted in 2001 and in 2006 in Virginia on related charges, the complaint says.

Authorities in Texas asked a federal judge on Monday for permission to search his girlfriend's single-story trailer home and his black Apple iPad, court papers unsealed Wednesday show.

Abdul Rahman Yasin was questioned extensively after the 1993 World Trade Centre blast, which killed six people and injured 1 000 others, but a week later he fled to Amman, Jordan. He was indicted in August of that year and has been placed on the FBI's list of most wanted terrorists.

Six Islamic extremists, including mastermind Ramzi Yousef, were convicted of carrying out the 1993 bombing, with Yousef defiantly proclaiming at his sentencing: "Yes, I am a terrorist and am proud of it." Yousef is the nephew of Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind of the September 11 2001, attacks, which destroyed the World Trade Centre and damaged the Pentagon.

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