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FLASH ALERT: HBCUS SHOULD REMAIN ON HIGH ALERT FOR BOMB ATTACKS AND ACTIVE SHOOTERS

Team: Dja Camara, Weapons and Tactics (W/T) Team

Cassandra Townsend, Demetrios Giannakaris, Clea Guastavino, Senior Editors

Week of: Monday, January 31, 2022


Second Series of Bomb and Active Shooter Threats Targeting HBCUs in 2022[1]


The Counterterrorism Group (CTG) is issuing a FLASH ALERT for all Historically Black Colleges/Universities (HBCUs) for the month of February during the observation of Black History Month in the US. On Tuesday, February 1, 2022, 13 HBCUs reported receiving bomb and active shooter threats while Howard University and six other HBCUs also received bomb threats on Monday, January 31, 2022.[2] On Tuesday, January 4, 2022, eight HBCUs received bomb threats; the threats have yet to see any arrests.[3] No explosive devices were recovered by first responders in either series of targeted bomb threats, nor were there reported sightings of an active shooter or coordinated shooting. The threats will very likely continue throughout the month of February, causing further evacuations of campuses and postponements of classes, straining available emergency resources and first responders, and spreading fear among students, faculty, and staff.


CTG is on HIGH alert following the second series of coordinated bomb threats targeting HBCUs this year. HBCUs should also be on HIGH alert for any possible active shooters. Campus police should be vigilant for possible bombs, bombers, or potential active shooters while patrolling campus. There is a HIGH PROBABILITY that these bomb and active shooter threats will continue throughout the month of February, targeting a larger number of HBCUs. Howard University remains the top and most frequent target of bomb threats since 2015[4] as the first HBCU.[5] Numerous other HBCUs in the South are vulnerable to threats and attacks from in-state hate groups, including Atomwaffen Division and The Base. CTG is concerned about a threat actor or cell likely deciding to activate themselves and take action. There will very likely be disruptions to classes and other on-campus activities, as well as evacuations, lockdowns, or shelter-in-place orders issued. Campus police, law enforcement, and other first responders will very likely continue responding to all immediate threats, whether credible or not. The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) will very likely head the subsequent investigations into alleged threats that appear to be politically or racially motivated and part of a coordinated domestic terrorism campaign. HBCU students, faculty, and staff will very likely continue to feel terrorized by threats made through social media and other telecommunications.


On February 1, 2022, the following universities received bomb threats at either early morning local time or at undisclosed times: Coppin University in Baltimore, Maryland; Jackson State University in Jackson, Mississippi; Mississippi Valley State University in Itta Bena, Mississippi; Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland; Alcorn State University in Lorman, Mississippi; Tougaloo College in Jackson, Mississippi; Fort Valley State University in Fort Valley, Georgia; Xavier University in Norwood, Ohio; Edward Waters University in Jacksonville, Florida; Kentucky State University in Frankfort, Kentucky; The University of the District of Columbia Van Ness campus in Washington, DC; Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia; and Howard University in Washington, DC. Targeted HBCU campuses across the US were on lockdown, and classes were either moved online or canceled while first responders conducted bomb-searching sweeps. No explosive devices were found at any of the campuses, and the threats are now considered not credible. While Coppin University reported receiving a phone call about the threat, the other HBCUs have not reported how the threats were communicated.[6]


Twitter Updates on February 1, 2022[7]


February 1, 2022, was the fourth day bomb threats targeted HBCUs since August, the beginning of the school year in the US. On September 21, 2021, Howard University was targeted by a bomb threat that was not deemed credible and led to the arrest of an unnamed suspect. How this threat was communicated has not been reported.[8] On January 4, 2022, Howard University, Xavier University, the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, Prairie View A&M University, North Carolina Central University, Florida Memorial University, Norfolk State University, Texas Southern University, and Spelman College were targeted. These threats were received through calls in the afternoon and evening.[9] On January 31, 2022, Howard University, Southern University A&M, Bethune-Cookman University, Albany State University, Bowie State University, and Delaware State University were targeted. The Bethune-Cookman University bomb and active shooter threat in Daytona Beach, Florida, was placed approximately at 0500 local time when an unnamed suspect called local law enforcement and identified themselves as part of the Neo-Nazi group, Atomwaffen Division.[10] The suspect told the 911 dispatcher that he planted bombs in duffel bags around the campus and planned to shoot up the school. The remaining threats were also received in the morning, although how these threats were communicated was not reported.[11] Several schools continue to investigate the threats,[12] and the FBI[13] and ATF are involved.[14]


Howard University is the most consistent target of bomb threats, very likely due to its prominence as the first HBCU, its main campus being located in Washington, DC, and its connection to famous Black leaders including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., former US President Barack Obama, and current US Vice President Kamala Harris.[15] Due to this notability, Howard University will very likely continue to be targeted by bomb threats. It is very likely that with the extensive media coverage, the serious response to these threats, and the observation of Black History Month, threat actors will continue to target this and other HBCUs. Threat actors likely hope that numerous anonymous bomb threats will not be thoroughly investigated by the FBI or ATF when they are found to be not credible by first responders, likely attempting to avoid arrest by doing so. However, in November 2015, Howard University was targeted by John Edgar Rust,[16] who was later found guilty under the Interstate Communications Law and to have committed a hate crime, and was sentenced to 33 months in prison on July 20, 2018.[17] The FBI and ATF will very likely continue investigating these threats to identify the threat actors.


More credible threats posed by the Atomwaffen Division,[18] and The Base,[19] as well as numerous White Supremacist, White Nationalist, and Neo-Nazi groups correspond with the locations of the HBCUs targeted in Delaware (1), Louisiana (1), Washington, DC (3), Mississippi (4), Maryland (4), Ohio (6), Arkansas (8), Kentucky (8), North Carolina (8), Georgia (9), South Carolina (10), Texas (13), Florida (18), and Virginia (19).[20] Atomwaffen Division commonly threatens targets with known physical addresses and leaves propaganda in mailboxes as a looming physical threat.[21] Atomwaffen Division ideology canonizes Charles Manson, who called for his followers to murder as part of Helter Skelter or the race war.[22] Similarly, The Base promotes real-world training, reading from a weapons and warfare library, and networking between more active members.[23] HBCUs in the South are very likely to be targeted by racially or politically motivated threat actors who are very likely to commit hate crimes and forms of domestic terrorism in a concerted effort.


Numerous bomb threats are likely an attempt to distract local law enforcement and the FBI from more credible threats in the Washington, DC area. The threats are likely a method of testing emergency services, giving threat actors information about response times, the number of first responders deployed, and any observable protocol that can later be utilized to plan an attack. The bomb and active shooter threats are likely linked to Atomwaffen Division, which trains members in tactical weapons, especially firearms, and explosives, including homemade bombs.[24]


There is a roughly even chance that one of these threats includes the QAnon conspiracy theory that former US President Donald Trump will be inaugurated on March 4, 2022.[25] It is very likely that because Trump was not inaugurated on March 4, 2021, and he recently began campaigning in Make America Great Again (MAGA) strongholds, QAnon conspiracy theorists will mobilize to major cities around March 4, 2022, as this date remains significant to QAnon lore.[26] If local law enforcement and the FBI are overwhelmed by open cases that meet the criteria of racially or politically motivated domestic terrorism, they will very likely not be able to comprehensively monitor QAnon’s online calls to violence. It then becomes very unlikely that the FBI will prevent or adequately respond to an overwhelming QAnon threat in Washington, DC. Even if the QAnon threat only involves a small number of threat actors, it is very likely that if they plant explosive devices around Washington, DC in different strategic locations, political opponents will be injured without proper security measures in place.


There is a roughly even chance that the February 1, 2022 bomb threats were in response to the January 31, 2022 threats made by ex-Professor Matthew Christopher Harris on UCLA.[27] If racially or politically motivated threat actors are responding to the publicity around Harris, a Black man, it is very likely to portray themselves as moral saviors of the White Supremacist cause. It is very likely that with February being Black History Month in the US, the number of HBCUs targeted signals a resentment shared by White Supremacist, White Nationalist, and Neo-Nazi groups. Racially or politically motivated threat actors are likely attempting to associate Black History Month with threats of violence in the eyes of many HBCU students, faculty, and staff as well as their communities. It is very unlikely that these threats were orchestrated by one or more students in an attempt to cancel their own classes. Despite the Chicago criminal court’s findings in the Jussie Smollett case, in which Smollett was found guilty of lying to police about being the victim of a racially motivated and homophobic hate crime, it is very unlikely that these are false flag events or hoaxes.[28]


The CTG Weapons and Tactics (W/T) Team recommends reporting all suspicious activity to law enforcement and emergency services. Activities such as buying large amounts of chemicals and materials (or a combination of these) that can be used to build homemade bombs should be reported. Any suspicious person dressed as a Neo-Nazi, in all black with a skeleton face-covering or mask, and any person carrying a firearm or detonator on or around campus should be reported immediately.


Local law enforcement should continue responding to bomb threats targeting HBCUs and other educational institutions across the US. The W/T Team recommends that law enforcement agencies partner across states and between the local, state, and federal levels in order to mitigate the increasing number and frequency of bomb threats made. The W/T Team recommends local law enforcement utilize intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance tools and capabilities while investigating threats and threat actors. The W/T Team also recommends that HBCUs and other educational institutions continue cooperating with and aiding law enforcement in their investigations.


Training staff in techniques and how to navigate various reliable databases to determine a phone number's registration location can expedite the investigation process.[29] Educating students, faculty, and staff about recognizing the signs of terrorist-related activities should be implemented immediately, ideally through electronic learning while the threat climate remains high. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has a downloadable infographic that explains 30 signs of suspicious activity,[30] and a campaign that tests personal safety knowledge and understanding.[31] CTG strongly urges HBCU students, faculty, and staff to remain vigilant and not become desensitized by the frequency and outcome of these threats. CTG strongly urges HBCUs to continue to observe Black History Month safely and offer mental health support to all students, faculty, and staff.


CTG’s W/T Team will continue to monitor developments and evolving threats on HBCUs in the US, especially during February. The W/T Team will also continue to monitor threats that target Howard University and other HBCUs, especially those in the Washington, DC area. Considering the nature of these threats, the Emergency Management, Health, and Hazards (EMH2) Team will follow evolving threats should explosive devices be found or detonated this month. The NORTHCOM Team will follow evolving threats across the US should more HBCUs be targeted. The Extremism Team will follow evolving threats should key indicators of alleged racially or politically motivated threat actors be met. The ​​Worldwide Analysis of Threats, Crime, and Hazards (W.A.T.C.H.) Officers will continue to log up-to-date events for mapping threats and conducting fact-based analysis.


The Counterterrorism Group (CTG) has become the global leader in proactively fighting terrorist organizations around the world. CTG specializes in intelligence collection, and analysis, as well as investigative work to counterterrorism. CTG resources are delivered to advise clients on a business resilience process using current threat intelligence data. We scan for threats across the following regions; Africa, Central Asia, Europe, North America, South America, and Asia-Pacific. Our organization assesses evolving threats through, Worldwide Analysis of Threats, Crime, and Hazards (W.A.T.C.H.) services. Our W.A.T.C.H Officers and Digital Targeters monitor the threat posed by cyber threats, insider threats, fraud, espionage, hazards, reputational damages, violent crime, kidnappings, and bombing threats. To find out more about our products and W.A.T.C.H. services visit us at counterterrorismgroup.com.


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[1] CTG Threat Hunter Source, Telegram, February 1, 2022

[2] After more than a dozen HBCUs get bomb threats on the first day of Black History Month, students and staff express unease and dismay, CNN, February 2022, https://edition.cnn.com/2022/02/01/us/hbcu-bomb-threats-tuesday/index.html

[3] Bomb Threats at Multiple HBCUs, Inside Higher Education, January 2022, https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2022/01/06/multiple-hbcus-receive-bomb-threats

[4] 'Upswing' in Campus Threats, Inside Higher Education, November 2015, https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2015/11/23/two-weeks-more-dozen-campuses-targeted-threats-violence

[5] Bomb Threats at Multiple HBCUs, Inside Higher Education, January 2022, https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2022/01/06/multiple-hbcus-receive-bomb-threats

[6] After more than a dozen HBCUs get bomb threats on the first day of Black History Month, students and staff express unease and dismay, CNN, February 2022, https://edition.cnn.com/2022/02/01/us/hbcu-bomb-threats-tuesday/index.html

[7] HBCUs, Twitter, February 1 2022, https://twitter.com/Phil_Lewis_/status/1488479395044024321/photo/4

[8] All Clear, Twitter, September 21 2021, https://twitter.com/i/web/status/1440311763778498563

[9] Bomb Threats at Multiple HBCUs, Inside Higher Education, January 2022, https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2022/01/06/multiple-hbcus-receive-bomb-threats

[10] Bethune-Cookman among several American HBCUs targeted in campus bomb threats, Yahoo News, February 2022, https://news.yahoo.com/bethune-cookman-among-several-american-234818451.html

[11] Howard, Southern University and other HBCUs receive bomb threats, CNN, January 2022, https://edition.cnn.com/2022/01/31/us/hbcus-bomb-threats/index.html

[12] Ibid

[13] Bomb Threats at Multiple HBCUs, Inside Higher Education, January 2022, https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2022/01/06/multiple-hbcus-receive-bomb-threats

[14] Nationwide: HBCUs Targeted by Bomb Threat Campaign, TRIPwire, February 2022, https://tripwire.dhs.gov/news/273280

[15] Ibid

[16] White Man Used 4chan to Threaten Black Students at Howard University in 2015: DOJ, Newsweek, October 2017, https://www.newsweek.com/howard-university-racist-death-threats-arrest-678525

[17] Man sentenced for threatening to kill African Americans at Howard University, The Washington Post, July 2018, https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/public-safety/man-sentenced-for-threatening-to-kill-african-americans-at-howard-university/2018/07/20/fff3bae8-2b58-4382-a279-03fa691baae2_story.html

[18] ATOMWAFFEN DIVISION, Southern Poverty Law Center, https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/group/atomwaffen-division

[19] THE BASE, Southern Poverty Law Center, https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/group/base

[20] Hate Map, Southern Poverty Law Center, https://www.splcenter.org/hate-map

[21] KING 5 investigator targeted by neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen, KING 5, February 2020, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AVf26MWW0k8

[22] Ibid

[23] THE BASE, Southern Poverty Law Center, https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/group/base

[24] ATOMWAFFEN DIVISION, Southern Poverty Law Center, https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/group/atomwaffen-division

[25] Why are QAnon believers obsessed with 4 March?, BBC, March 2021, https://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-trending-56260345

[26] trump march 4, Twitter, February 2 2022, https://twitter.com/search?q=trump%20march%204&src=typed_query

[27] Suspect in shooting threats against UCLA now in custody, authorities say, ABC 7, February 2022, https://abc7.com/ucla-shooting-threats-suspect-in-custody/11529518/

[28] Jussie Smollett convicted in hate crime hoax. Here's how we got here, CNN, December 2021, https://edition.cnn.com/2021/11/29/us/jussie-smollett-how-we-got-here/index.html

[29] How to Trace Cell Phone Numbers, wikiHow, January 2021, https://www.wikihow.com/Trace-Cell-Phone-Numbers

[30] Recognize the Signs, US Department of Homeland Security, January 2022, https://www.dhs.gov/see-something-say-something/recognize-the-signs

[31] Take the Challenge, US Department of Homeland Security, March 2021, https://www.dhs.gov/see-something-say-something/take-challenge



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