Man charged over Statue of Liberty hoax bomb threat

A girl mimics the Statue of Liberty as she poses for photos in front of the US landmark.
A girl mimics the Statue of Liberty as she poses for photos in front of the US landmark.REUTERS

NEW YORK (AFP) - A 42-year-old American was arrested in Texas on Wednesday and charged with making a hoax bomb threat at the Statue of Liberty that forced the evacuation of 3,230 people, officials said.

Jason Smith from West Virginia allegedly called emergency services identifying himself as "Abdul Yasin" and as an "ISI terrorist" saying that "we" are preparing to blow up the statue.

It was not clear what group he was referring to.

The ISI is most commonly understood as the acronym for Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence, the country's premier spy agency.

Court papers indicate that Smith attended a school for the blind and deaf. He used a telephone service tailored for those with hearing impediments and has past convictions for making threats.

The statue and its surrounding island, one of the most visited monuments in the United States, was evacuated on April 24 and closed for the rest of the day after the bomb threat was made.

Park police and canine units swept the scene and bomb disposal officers were scrambled, after a possible suspicious package was located in a visitor locker.

The threat was later deemed to have been a hoax.

US prosecutors say Smith called the emergency 911 hotline on April 24 from his iPad, using a service that assists hearing-impaired people with making and receiving calls.

Two follow-up calls threatening to attack Times Square and kill police officers at the Brooklyn Bridge were made from the same iPad by a user identified as "Isis allah Bomb maker" in May.

ISIS is most commonly used in the United States to refer to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria extremist group.

Prosecutors said Smith was arrested in Lubbock, Texas, and would appear before a federal court in Texas later on Wednesday.

He is charged with one count of conveying false and misleading information and hoaxes, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison, prosecutors said in New York.

Smith was convicted twice in Virginia, in 2001 and 2006, for making threats of death or bodily injury, court papers show.

In 2006, he was also convicted of threatening to bomb or burn buildings and of calling emergency services without just cause.