New York air traffic controllers heard a threat to crash a plane into the US Capitol as an avenge for the death of Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani.
On January 4, 2021, multiple air traffic controllers in New York reported hearing a threat to fly a plane into the Capitol building in Washington DC. The message was delivered in digitized voice and broadcasted on air traffic control frequencies.
“We are flying a plane into the Capitol on Wednesday. Soleimani will be avenged,” said the message, according to a record obtained by the CBS News.
The threat was made almost one year after the death of Soleimani – one of Iran’s most powerful military figures. He was killed in a US drone strike ordered by President Donald Trump on January 3, 2020. His killing escalated tensions between the US and Iran. After the incident, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei announced that “severe revenge awaits the criminals” behind the attack.
While the threat is believed not to be credible, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) are investigating the breach of air traffic control frequencies, saying that the breach itself is alarming.
On January 6, 2021, the US Congress plans to affirm Joe Biden’s presidential win at the Capitol.
Air traffic controllers are instructed to report any unusual activity that might suggest a plane deviating from its regular course.
The FAA told the DailyMail that it “works closely with federal law enforcement and national security partners on any reported security threats that may impact aviation safety.”
The FBI has not commented on the situation but said it takes “all threats of violence to public safety seriously.”
The broadcast was found to be made within the US so the investigators are likely to be focusing on mitigating the threats in the country.
“It is assessed that the technician responsible has radio modifying experience and is transmitting somewhere within 20NM (nautical miles) of the radio tower in North Sea, NY,” according to the Department of Homeland Security report.