Hostage-taker killed after 11-hour synagogue stand-off in Texas was British

‘International investigation’ underway after authorities rescue four people from Texas synagogue

Alex Woodward
New York
Sunday 16 January 2022 18:09
Texas synagogue hostages escape gunman moments before SWAT team storms the building

Law enforcement officials are launching a “global” investigation after ending an 11-hour standoff with a British man who held several people hostage inside a Texas synagogue on Saturday.

The man, identified as Malik Faisal Akram, was confirmed to be a British citizen by UK authorities.

Authorities confirmed that the man was fatally shot shooting as police breached the building.

A spokesperson for the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office said on Sunday: “We are aware of the death of a British man in Texas and are in contact with the local authorities.”

Police were called to Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, outside of Fort Worth, before 11am on Saturday during a morning service which was being live-streamed to Facebook.

On the livestream, a man with an apparent British accent could be heard shouting and demanding the release of Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist suspected of ties to al-Qaeda and convicted in Texas of trying to kill US military officers in Afghanistan.

The man, who was reportedly armed with a gun and explosives, took four people hostage, including the rabbi. One hostage was released shortly after 5pm, and the standoff with police concluded after 9pm.

Video captured at the scene shows people running out a door followed by a gunman who opens the same door seconds later before turning and closing it. Moments later, several rounds of gunfire can be he heard.

FBI special agent in charge Matthew DeSarno told reporters on Saturday that a law enforcement investigation “will have global reach.”

“We have been in contact already with multiple FBI [legal attaches] to include Tel Aviv and London,” he said.

Mr DeSarno said that police believe Mr Akram was “singularly focused on one issue and it was not specifically related to the Jewish community”.

“We will continue to work to find motives and we will continue on that path in terms of the resolution of the incident,” he said.

US Representative Michael McCaul of Texas, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told CNN on Sunday that “the FBI has now fanned their investigation out to London and Tel Aviv, so this has now turned into an international investigation.”

In a statement, the Texas Department of Public Safety said the suspect demanded to see his “sister” Siddiqui.

An attorney who represents Siddiqui said “she has absolutely no involvement with” the incident, nor is the man her brother.

Marwa Elbially told The Independent that she has no idea who the man is nor does he have any connection to the Siddiqui family.

“He has no relation to the family, no relation to the supporters, nothing,” Ms Elbially said. “We have no idea where this guy came from.... we don’t know who he is and why he decided to do the irrational thing he’s doing now.”

Though she has not spoken to Siddiqui since the attack began, she said her client would “condemn this and not support this in any way” and had “always maintained that no violence should be done in her name”. She said her client maintains her innocence.

Roughly 200 federal, state and local law enforcement officers, including a team of FBI agents from Virginia, converged on the synagogue on Saturday morning.

Emergency teams near Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas on Saturday (Smiley N. Pool/PA)

Mr Akram reportedly told congregants that he was “not a criminal” and vacillated from apologetic concern, speaking in different languages and “screaming hysterically,” congregation member Stacey Silverman later told CNN.

“At any moment, I thought there was going to be a gunshot,” she said.

Texas authorities evacuated nearby residents during the ordeal. Overnight, the Colleyville Police Department announced that FBI bomb technicians were disposing of some ordinances at the synagogue.

“There may be some loud noises” but “there is no need for concern,” the department said.

President Joe Biden commended law enforcement “who acted cooperatively and fearlessly to rescue the hostages” and is “sending love and strength to the members of Congregation Beth Israel, Colleyville, and the Jewish community.”

“There is more we will learn in the days ahead about the motivations of the hostage taker,” he said in a statement on Saturday. “But let me be clear to anyone who intends to spread hate – we will stand against antisemitism and against the rise of extremism in this country.”

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