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British citizenship identification as a hostage at the Texas synagogue

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

Malik Faisal Akram was shot dead after the last hostage escaped around 9 p.m. Saturday at Beth Israel Church near Fort Worth. In a statement, the FBI said there was no indication anyone else was involved, but it offered no possible motive.

Akram can be heard on Facebook live streaming services and demanding the release of a Pakistani neuroscientist who was convicted of attempting to kill US military officers in Afghanistan. Spokesmen for the FBI and police declined to answer questions Saturday night about who shot Akram when the siege ended.

Video from Dallas TV station WFAA shows people running out the door of a synagogue, and then a man with a gun opening that door just seconds later before he turns around and closes it. Moments later, several rounds of gunfire rang out, followed by explosions.

“Rest assured, we’re focused,” Biden said during a visit to a Philadelphia grocery store Sunday morning. “The Attorney General is focused and made sure we deal with these types of behavior.”

Biden said the suspect could be buying weapons on the street and may have only been in the country for a few weeks. US Immigration and Customs Enforcement did not immediately respond to questions on 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 regarding the incident.

FBI Special Agent Matt DeSarno said the hostage-taker was specifically focused on an issue that was not directly related to the Jewish community and there was no immediate indication that the man was part of any What’s the bigger plan? But DeSarno said the agency’s investigation “will have a global reach.”

It is unclear why Akram chose the synagogue.

Law enforcement officials were not authorized to discuss the ongoing investigation, and the person who spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity earlier said the hostage-taker requested his release. Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist Suspected ties to al-Qaida are in federal prison in Texas. He also said he wanted to be able to speak to her, according to officials, one of whom confirmed that the hostage-taker was a British citizen.

A rabbi in New York City received a call from a rabbi believed to be held hostage in a synagogue to request the release of Siddiqui, a law enforcement official. law said. Then the rabbi in New York called 911.

Police were first called to the synagogue around 11 a.m. and people were evacuated from the vicinity shortly after, FBI Dallas spokeswoman Katie Chaumont said.

Saturday’s services have been live on the synagogue’s Facebook page for some time. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported that an angry man can sometimes be heard shouting and talking about religion during the live stream, which does not indicate what is happening inside the synagogue.

Not long before 2 p.m., the man said, “You have to do something. I don’t want to see this guy die.” After a while, the feed was cut off. A spokesperson for Meta Platforms Inc., the successor to Facebook Inc., later confirmed that Facebook had removed the video.

Many people heard the hostage-taker calling Siddiqui his “sister” on the live stream. But John Floyd, Houston board president of the Council on American Muslim Relations, – the nation’s largest Muslim advocacy group – said Siddiqui’s brother, Mohammad Siddiqui, was not involved.

“This attacker has nothing to do with Dr Aafia, her family, or the global campaign to get Dr Aafia justice. We want the attacker to know that his actions are evil and directly undermine those of us who are seeking justice for Dr. Aafia,” said Floryd, legal counsel. for Mohammad Siddiqui, said. “We have confirmed that the family member falsely accused of this heinous act is not near the DFW metro area.”

Victoria Francis, of Texas, told the AP she watched the live stream about an hour before it was cut. She said she heard the man against America and insisted he had a bomb.

“He was just everywhere on the map. He’s pretty cranky and the more irritable he gets, the more threats he’ll make, like ‘I’m the bomb man. If you make a mistake, it’s all your fault. ‘ And he would laugh at it,” she said. “He is clearly in a state of extreme distress.”

Francis, who grew up near Colleyville, watched after she read about the hostage situation. She said it appeared the man was on the phone with the police department, with the rabbi and another person trying to help negotiate.

Colleyville, a community of about 26,000 people, is about 15 miles (23 km) northeast of Fort Worth. The synagogue is nestled among large houses in a tree-lined residential area that includes several churches, a middle and elementary school and a horse farm.

By Sunday morning, the police encirclement around the synagogue had narrowed to half a block in both directions and FBI agents were able to enter and exit the building. A sign that reads “Love” – ​​with the “o” replaced by the Star of David – has been planted on the neighbor’s lawn.

Beth Israel Congregation is led by Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, who has been there since 2006 as the synagogue’s first full-time rabbi. He has worked to bring a sense of spirituality, compassion, and learning to the community, according to his bio on the temple’s website, and he enjoys welcoming everyone, including LGBT people, into the church.

In a post Sunday morning on Cytron-Walker’s Facebook page, the rabbi thanked law enforcement and first responders. “I am very grateful that we were successful. I am grateful to be alive,” he wrote.

Rabbi Andrew Marc Paley of Dallas, who was called to the scene to help the families and hostages after their release, said Cytron-Walker acted as a calm and relaxed presence who had respond to the instructions given to him. The first hostage was released shortly after 5pm. That was around the time food was delivered to those inside the synagogue, but Paley said he didn’t know if food delivery was part of the negotiations.

“Actually he seemed a bit confused, but I don’t know if that was a shock or just the moment,” Paley said of the first hostage after being released. “He’s calm and grateful to law enforcement and Rabbi Charlie.”

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said on Twitter that he was monitoring the situation closely. “This event is a stark reminder that anti-Semitism still exists and we must continue to fight it around the world,” he wrote. He said he was “relieved and grateful” that the hostages were freed.

The standoff has prompted increased security elsewhere, including in New York City, where police said they have increased their presence “at important Jewish facilities” due to the lack of resources. caution.

Aafia Siddiqui earned advanced degrees from Brandeis University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology before she was sentenced to 86 years in prison in 2010 for assaulting and shooting US Army officers after being detained in Afghanistan for two years. before. The punishment has sparked outrage in Pakistan among political leaders and her supporters, who see her as a victim of the American criminal justice system.

In the years since, Pakistani officials have expressed public interest in any form of settlement or swap that could lead to her release from the US and her case continues to attract attention. attention from supporters. For example, in 2018, an Ohio man who prosecutors say planned to fly to Texas and attack the prison where Siddiqui was being held in an attempt to free her. sentenced to 22 years in prison.

https://kfor.com/news/british-national-idd-as-hostage-taker-at-texas-synagogue/ British citizenship identification as a hostage at the Texas synagogue

JACLYN DIAZ

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