Bomb hoaxes and death threats plague British Caribbean island officials

Bomb hoaxes grounded a flight from Bermuda to London last month
Bomb hoaxes grounded a flight from Bermuda to London last month - Ashley Hense

Counterterrorism police and the FBI are investigating a campaign of bomb hoaxes and death threats aimed at officials on British Caribbean islands.

An anonymous group has claimed responsibility for a series of bomb hoaxes that grounded a flight from Bermuda to London last month, and has threatened to “start assassinating government officials” if their demands are not met, The Telegraph can reveal.

The threats are linked to the detention of five American tourists on gun charges in the British-owned Turks and Caicos islands, which sparked a minor diplomatic incident between the islands and Washington last month.

The Americans were caught at airport security with ammunition in their luggage, and face up to 12 years in prison under strict laws designed to reduce gun crime.

One of the Americans, Bryan Hagerich, has since been given a suspended sentence and allowed to return home to Pennsylvania, following diplomatic pressure from the US State Department and several congressmen.

The five Americans claim the ammunition was inadvertently left in their luggage and that they had not intended to use it while in the Turks and Caicos Islands.

‘Second phase’ of terror threat

The arrests have prompted a terror campaign, which began in early May. The FBI told The Telegraph the incidents are “ongoing” after the group threatened a “second phase” of terror action this month.

On May 5, a bomb threat sent by email to LF Wade International Airport in Bermuda claimed explosives had been planted in the terminal and on a British Airways flight to Heathrow.

The plane was evacuated on the runway while officials scrambled to secure the area. A recording of a conversation between the pilot and air traffic control, confirming passengers were under threat, has since been posted online.

Bomb threats were also issued to airports in several other British overseas territories, including the British Virgin Islands, the Turks and Caicos Islands, the Cayman Islands and Anguilla.

Bryan Hagerich, left, and Ryan Watson are facing charges in Turks and Caicos
Bryan Hagerich, left, and Ryan Watson are facing charges in Turks and Caicos - NEWSNATIONNOW

The following day, the hoaxers emailed authorities to warn the threats would continue if the Americans were not released.

“This is your final warning, we will bomb threat the entire f---ing Caribbean, not just British overseas territories, we will bomb threat schools, airports, factories, ports, hotels, government buildings among others,” the email said.

“What happened yesterday is a tiny fraction of what is to come. If that doesn’t work, we will actually start assassinating government officials, not fake threats but actual assassinations.”

The message, which was sent from a Russian email address, names the Turks and Caicos police chief Edvin Martin and attorney-general Rhondalee Braithwaite-Knowles as targets.

It said that the detained tourists “hurt nobody” and that their arrest was “devastating families in the US”.

‘Malicious hoax’

The campaign to release the Americans has been backed by senators John Fetterman and ‌Markwayne Mullin, and the National Rifle Association.

The Bermudan government has said it is working with US and UK authorities to trace the source of the bomb hoaxes but has not told residents about the death threats, or that the incidents are linked to the arrested Americans.

Officials in London believe the terror campaign is a “malicious hoax” and are working with the FBI to trace the source.

British officials are also working with the governments of several overseas territories to strengthen emergency protocols at airports because of the threats, and to train local law enforcement officers to deal with them.

An FBI spokesman said: “The FBI is aware of the ongoing incidents and is in contact with our foreign partners.”

The Foreign Office declined to comment on the investigation, citing security concerns.