By COLLEEN CURRY, GINA SUNSERI, and RICHARD ESPOSITO, ABC NEWS
A trio of universities were disrupted by violent threats this morning although all three campuses were later determined to be safe, according to the schools.
University of Texas president William Powers, Jr., said today that the school was "extremely confident" that the campus was safe and free of explosive devices as of 1 p.m., following a bomb threat placed to the school around 8:30 a.m. this morning.
Shortly after the University of Texas announced its bomb threat, North Dakota State University in Fargo, N.D., announced that it too had been the target of a bomb threat and was evacuating students. A third university, Valparaiso University in Indiana, announced that it had received a violent threat as well in the form of a graffiti message.
All three campuses have since been cleared. Officials said they do not yet know if the threats are related.
"There was always a question about the credibility of the threat. As you know there was a threat in North Dakota as well, so our evaluation continued, but we could not assure ourselves that this was not a credibile threat, so we thought the prudent thing to do was clear the buildings," Powers said at a news conference today.
Around 8:30 a.m., the university received a phone call from someone with a Middle-Eastern accent who made an unspecific threat saying there were explosives in buildings on campus that would go off within 90 minutes to two hours, the university said. According to one message sent by the university to students, the man identified himself as part of Al Qaeda.
The university investigated the threats to evaluate their credibility before deciding to evacuate the campus buildings as a precaution, Powers said. Students were notified shortly before 10 a.m. to evacuate campus buildings.
Law enforcement officials then swept each building on campus to ensure that it was clear of any threats, Powers said.
Powers appeared along with the mayor of Austin, Lee Leffingwell, and chief of campus police, Robert Dahlstrom.
"We are very confident from working with state officials, our officials, and federal officials, we can't go into the details of why we know this, but we are extremely confident that the campus is safe," Powers said.
North Dakota State also cleared its buildings and residence halls of students, warning them that a bomb threat had been called into the school. Authorities there, aided by FBI officials, swept that campus to ensure there was no danger before reopening the campus this afternoon.
In Indiana, Valapraiso University also sent out an alert to students notifying them that a unspecified threat that might pose a danger to students during campus chapel time, around 11:15 a.m. The threat was made through graffiti, according to the school.
All three campuses announced that their schools were safe and clear of threats by 1:30 p.m.
The FBI said that it was helping local authorities investigate the threats and whether there was a connection among them.
In Texas, an FBI spokesman said that no arrests had been made yet but that law enforcement authorities were aggressively searching for the culprit.
"We are aggressively looking for this individual. We take these things pretty seriously for obvious reasons of public panic, the response of local authorities and that cost. We treat every one of these as if they're real until we know they are not," Erick Vasys said.