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Suspicious packages sent to Seattle synagogues part of national rise in threats to Jewish, Arab, and Muslim communities

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Several suspicious packages that have been sent to Seattle-area synagogues have prompted the FBI to join the investigation into the incidents.

“FBI Seattle, Seattle Police Department, and Seattle Fire Department responded to several suspicious letters sent to Jewish synagogues in the Seattle area, some of which contained an unknown substance," FBI Seattle said in a statement.

"Law enforcement and public safety officials are working to determine how many letters were sent, the individual(s) responsible for the letters, and the motive behind them."

RELATED: Mayor Harrell says Seattle police increasing patrols around places of worship

The FBI said it would not comment further about the "ongoing matter," but did state that "the public can be assured that law enforcement will continue to keep the public's safety as its top priority."

The most recent package was discovered Monday evening at a synagogue in Seattle's Hawthorne Hills neighborhood. The Seattle Fire Department concluded that it was not hazardous.

The Seattle Times reports that this is the fourth Jewish institution in the area that has received a suspicious, or a potentially hazardous substance, since Friday, Nov. 3. There have been two packages sent to locations in Seward Park, and one to the University of Washington. All contained a white, powdery substance. Each was not found to be hazardous.

According to a statement from the FBI, the powder was tested, but further testing is needed to determine what it is exactly.

Still, the FBI is reminding people to be careful when they handle mail that comes from unrecognized senders, and asks people to report any such suspicious incidents to law enforcement.

The suspicious packages in Seattle come after the latest warning from the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI about a rise in threats to Jewish, Arab American, and Muslim communities in the United States since the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel.

The warning states the agencies have heightened "concern that violent extremists and lone offenders motivated by or reacting to ongoing events could target these communities. These threats have included hoax bomb threats targeting houses of worship and violent rhetoric online encouraging attacks against the Jewish, Arab American, and Muslim communities across the United States."

The statement points to the recent, gruesome murder of a 6-year-old Palestinian-American boy in Illinois as part of the hateful trend.

The agencies further warn of "potential threats in the United States from a variety of actors in response to the HAMAS attacks on Israel on 7 October and subsequent activities in the region, including additional calls by foreign terrorist organizations to their supporters seeking to foment violence in the West."

The Department of Homeland Security and the FBI report that groups such as al-Qaida and ISIS have called for supporters to “target the Jewish presence all over the world…especially Jewish neighborhoods in America and Europe,” including places of worship, nightclubs, and economic interests. The agencies state that they have no specific information about current plots in the United States.

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