FBI Says Six Juveniles Cited As 'Persons Of Interest' In HBCU Bomb Threats

The FBI’s joint terrorism task forces are now leading the investigation into threats made at more than a dozen Black colleges.

Six juveniles are persons of interest in the FBI’s investigation of a series of recent bomb threats that targeted historically Black colleges and universities over the past few days, NBC News reported Wednesday (Feb. 2).

They were described by an unidentified law enforcement official as apparently “tech-savvy” young people who are using sophisticated methods to throw off investigators who are trying to figure out the source of the threats, which appear racially motivated.

On Tuesday (Feb. 1), HBCUs received bomb threats for a second straight day–the third within a month. The institutions included Howard University, Morgan State, Jackson State, Mississippi Valley State, Coppin State, Alcorn State, Kentucky State, Tougaloo, Fort Valley State, Xavier (New Orleans), Spelman, Bowie State, UDC, and Edward Waters.

That prompted Morgan State University President David Wilson to urge the FBI to “aggressively” investigate bomb threats targeting the HBCUs. To many, the threats seemed timed to coincide with the start of Black History Month.

RELATED: Morgan State President Wants FBI To 'Aggressively' Investigate Series Of Bomb Threats At Black Colleges

The FBI said Tuesday that its joint terrorism task forces are leading the investigation into the bomb theats to HBCUs and houses of worship, calling it “of the highest priority.” The investigation involves more than 20 FBI field offices nationwide.

“These threats are being investigated as racially or ethnically motivated violent extremism and hate crimes,” the agency stated. “We are working closely with our local, state, and federal law enforcement partners; coordinating with the targeted institutions; and meeting with academia and faith leaders to share information.”

Officials are also investigating a 20-minute phone call in which a caller described a plot set for Feb. 2 to detonate several bombs in duffel bags filled with C-4 explosives stashed around the perimeter of Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach, Fla., the Associated Press reports. Police Chief Jakari Young told reporters the caller also said a gunman, who claimed to be with a neo-Nazi group, would open fire at noon that day. No such incident occurred and it is unclear if that particular group was actually responsible, but it added to the seriousness of the other threats.

"What I'm saying is it's plain and simple terrorism, no matter how you cut it, no mater how you slice it," Belvin Perry, chairman of the Bethune-Cookman Board of Trustees told the Daytona Beach News-Journal. "It is designed to inflict terror. It is designed to make people feel uncomfortable. It is designed to make people be afraid.”

Meanwhile, the schools affected are left to deal with the aftermath of the threats and are being proactive about it. Howard, for example, is letting its campus take Friday (Feb. 4) off as a mental health day. The school’s president, Wayne A.I. Frederick is encouraging students to remain steadfast in the face of the incidents.

“Their very presence, which is being challenged, is what must continue in order for us to get on the other side of this,” he told NPR.

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