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A series of bomb threats aimed at Academy District 20 schools in El Paso County Thursday appears to be a hoax spreading across the nation.

Challenger Middle School, Frontier Elementary, Mountain Ridge Elementary, Pine Creek High School, the district's Administrative Center and 12 to 15 surrounding businesses received bomb threats in emails, Colorado Springs police said.

As of Thursday afternoon, police had received 19 separate threats.

The threats do not appear credible, authorities have said.

Police spokesman Lt. Howard Black would not comment on whether other El Paso County schools received the email.

"We don't want people starting to call in threats to other schools," Black said. "Every threat we receive we have to divert resources to handle. We take each very seriously."

Several threats also were received at "at random businesses in El Paso County," a Sheriff's Office tweet says. The threats are believed to be "related to the hoax we are seeing nationwide."

Similar reports emerged across the country.

"We are aware of the recent bomb threats made in cities around the country, and we remain in touch with our law enforcement partners to provide assistance," the FBI Washington Field Office said in a statement. "As always, we encourage the public to remain vigilant and to promptly report suspicious activities which could represent a threat to public safety."

A school in Cabool, Mo., reported receiving an email demanding $20,000 in Bitcoins or a bomb would be detonated.

Des Moines, Iowa, police said they'd received reports of threats emailed to a jewelry store, the Science Center of Iowa, and a zoo.

Identical stories have popped up in Atlanta, Oklahoma City, Orlando, Seattle.

Twitter: @lizmforster

Phone: 636-0193

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