The statement came from FBI Special Agent Matt DeSarno after a day-long siege at the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue in Colleyville, Texas, ended in gunfire Saturday night with all four hostages released unharmed and the suspect dead.
Speaking to the media, Special Agent DeSarno said the hostage-taker, now identified as British citizen Malik Faisal Akram, was specifically focused on an issue not directly connected to the Jewish community, and there was no immediate indication that the man was part of any broader plan.
“But we’re continuing to work to find motive,” he added.
Akram is said to have demanded the release of Pakistani neuroscientist Aafia Siddiqui, who was convicted in the US in 2010 and sentenced to 86 years in prison after being detained in Afghanistan two years earlier for trying to kill an American army captain.
Slamming the FBI for the statement, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham said in a series of tweets: “It is very disturbing to hear from the FBI they do not believe the hostage taker’s demands had anything to do with the Jewish faith.”
“Apparently the FBI believes the hostage-taker randomly selected a synagogue to demand the release of al-Qaeda operative and facilitator Aafia Siddiqui.
“I hope the FBI will reconsider the statement because it is well known that at her trial Siddiqui, also known as ‘Lady al-Qaeda,’ was a raging anti-Semite who demanded that jurors be genetically tested for Jewish blood,” he said.
“This statement by the FBI seems ill-conceived and ill-timed. I look forward to further explanation from the FBI,” added Mr Graham.
“Just a coincidence that he targeted a house of worship used by this one particular religious minority, a coincidence that seems to happen an awful lot throughout history,” wrote The Economist’s middle east correspondent Gregg Carlstrom.
“Oh good I’m so glad to hear that a man who held four hostages in a synagogue for eleven hours after taking them during Shabbat services didn’t do it for any specific reason and this string of events was just a coincidence and not antisemitic at all. What a relief,” slammed Jerusalem Post reporter Shira Silkoff.
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