LOS ANGELES — Two similar emails threatening a large-scale jihadi attack at schools in Los Angeles and New York City contained two important differences that help explain why one city shut down more than 900 schools and the other dismissed it as a hoax, a California congressman said Wednesday.
A message sent to school officials in New York said 139 attackers would launch an assault with guns and bombs and all die in the name of Allah. The Los Angeles email mentioned 33 attackers, according to U.S. Rep. Brad Sherman, a former chairman of the House Subcommittee on Terrorism.
While it’s unlikely that 33 people could plan a coordinated single-day assault on the nation’s second-largest school district without drawing the attention of law enforcement, the idea that 139 people could do it in New York is downright “fanciful,” the California Democrat said.
“That is the biggest difference between these emails,” Sherman told The Associated Press. “Thirty-three was not terribly credible, but 139 is outlandish.”
The threat prompted the Los Angeles Unified School District to cancel classes Tuesday, sending the parents of 640,000 students scrambling. New York quickly dismissed the warning as a hoax, and its schools remained open.
In addition, both emails claimed to be written by students of the districts they were threatening, but the New York message had terminology that would not be used by someone familiar with that school system, Sherman said.
The Los Angeles email contained terminology that would be used by someone who knew the city’s schools, the congressman said.
There were signs that the threats were not coming from Islamic extremists. For instance, the Los Angeles email came from an address that includes an obscene word for a male body part, something a devout Muslim or an Islamic extremist claiming to be devout would not use, Sherman said.
Both emails also failed to capitalize “Allah” in one reference.