British man identified as hostage taker at Texas synagogue | News, Sports, Jobs

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Law enforcement teams stand near Congregation Beth Israel while conducting SWAT operations in the 6100 block of Pleasant Run Road on Saturday January 15, 2022 in Colleyville, Texas. Authorities said a man took hostages Saturday during services at the Texas synagogue. (Smiley N. Pool/The Dallas Morning News via AP)

COLLEYVILLE, Texas (AP) — Authorities on Sunday identified a 44-year-old British national as the man who held four people hostage at a Texas synagogue for 10 hours before an FBI SWAT team stormed the building, ending a tense standoff that President Joe Biden called “an act of terror.”

Malik Faisal Akram was shot and killed after the last of the hostages were released around 9 p.m. Saturday at Congregation Beth Israel near Fort Worth. In a statement, the FBI said there was no indication anyone else was involved, but it did not provide a possible motive.

Akram could be heard ranting on a Facebook live stream of the services and demanding the release of a Pakistani neuroscientist who has been convicted of attempting to kill US military officers in Afghanistan. Speaking to reporters in Philadelphia on Sunday, Biden said Akram allegedly bought a gun on the street and may have only been in the United States for a few weeks.

Video from Dallas television station WFAA showed people running through a synagogue door, then a man holding a gun opening the same door seconds later before turning around and closing it. Moments later, several gunshots could be heard, followed by the sound of an explosion.

“Rest assured, we are focused,” Biden said. “The Attorney General is focused and making sure we deal with these kinds of acts.”

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials did not immediately respond to questions Sunday about Akram’s immigration status and history. London’s Metropolitan Police said in a statement that its counter-terrorism police were in contact with US authorities over the incident.

FBI Special Agent in Charge Matt DeSarno said the hostage taker was specifically focused on an issue that was not directly related to the Jewish community, and that there was no immediate indication that the hostage taker was he man was part of a larger plan. Akram’s reason for choosing the synagogue was unclear.

FBI and police spokespersons declined to answer questions Saturday night about who shot Akram at the end of the confrontation.

Law enforcement officials who were not authorized to discuss the ongoing investigation and who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity said earlier that the hostage taker demanded the release of Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist suspected of having ties to al-Qaeda who is in federal prison in Texas. He also said he wished he could speak to her, according to officials.

Authorities said police were first called to the synagogue around 11 a.m. and people were evacuated from the surrounding neighborhood soon after.

Saturday services were streamed live on the synagogue’s Facebook page for some time. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported that an angry man could be heard ranting and talking about religion at times during the live broadcast, which did not show what was going on inside the synagogue.

Shortly before 2 p.m., the man said, “You have to do something. I don’t want to see this guy dead. Moments later, the power was cut off. A spokesperson for Meta Platforms Inc., the successor to Facebook Inc., later confirmed that Facebook had removed the video.

Several people heard the hostage taker refer to Siddiqui as his “sister” on the livestream. But John Floyd, chairman of the board of directors of the Houston chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations – the nation’s largest Muslim advocacy group – said Siddiqui’s brother, Mohammad Siddiqui, was not involved. .

“We want the abuser to know that his actions are evil and directly undermine those of us who seek justice for Dr Aafia,” said Floyd, who is also legal counsel to Mohammad Siddiqui.

Texas resident Victoria Francis, who said she watched about an hour of the live stream, said she heard the man denounce America and claim he had a bomb. Biden said Sunday that there were apparently no explosives, despite threats.

“He was just all over the map. He was quite irritated and the more irritated he was, the more threats he made, like “I’m the guy with the bomb”. If you make a mistake, it’s all up to you. And he was laughing about it,” Francis said. “He was clearly in extreme distress.”

Colleyville, a community of about 26,000 people, is about 15 miles northeast of Fort Worth. By Sunday morning, the police perimeter around the synagogue had shrunk to half a block in either direction, and FBI agents could be seen entering and exiting the building. A sign saying “Love” – ​​with the “o” replaced by a Star of David – was planted in a neighbour’s lawn.

Congregation Beth Israel is led by Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, who was among the four hostages. He declined to speak at length to a reporter outside his home on Sunday, telling an Associated Press reporter, “It’s a bit overwhelming as you can imagine. It wasn’t fun yesterday.

Andrew Marc Paley, a Dallas rabbi who was called to the scene to help families and hostages after their release, said Cytron-Walker acted as a calm and comforting presence. The first hostage was released shortly after 5 p.m. It was around the time food was being delivered to people inside the synagogue, but Paley said he didn’t know if that was part of the negotiations.

“He appeared a bit unfazed, actually, but I don’t know if it was some kind of shock or just the timing,” Paley said of the first hostage after his release. “He was calm and grateful to law enforcement and Rabbi Charlie.”

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said on Twitter that “this event is a stark reminder that anti-Semitism is still alive and we must continue to fight it around the world.”

The standoff has led authorities to step up security in other places, including New York, where police said they have increased their presence “in key Jewish institutions” out of an abundance of caution.

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