Crime & Justice

FBI identifies British man as hostage-taker at Texas synagogue

Washington, Jan 16 (EFE).- The FBI on Sunday identified British citizen Malik Faisal Akram as the man responsible for taking several hostages at a Texas syngagogue even as the investigation into the incident expanded to the United Kingdom and Israel.

Akram, 44, was shot dead by a police hostage rescue team on Saturday night in the synagogue in Colleyville, Texas, about 11 hours after taking four people hostage, although the people he was holding had already been released without being harmed.

In a statement, the FBI office in Dallas identified Akram and said that, at present, there is no indication that anyone else was involved in the hostage-taking incident, but it did not provide any details about the possible motives that led the suspect to kidnap the people, including the synagogue’s rabbi, participating in a religious service there earlier on Saturday.

Shortly before the FBI announcement of Akram’s identity, the government in the United Kingdom had said in a statement that it had been updated on the death of a British citizen in Texas and that it was in contact with local authorities there.

Republican Congressman Michael McCaul, who is a member of the House Foreign Relations Committee, said Sunday that the FBI had expanded its investigation to London and Tel Aviv, telling CNN that it had become an international investigation now rather than just a local incident.

President Joe Biden said Sunday that he had no details about the suspect’s motives, and added that Akram allegedly had bought the weapons he used in the incident “on the street.”

Calling it an “act of terrorism,” Biden said in Philadelphia, where he and first lady Jill Biden were attending a volunteer event to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a national holiday to be celebrated on Monday in the US, that he had been in contact with US Attorney General Merrick Garland about the importance of sending a message that these kinds of attacks would not be “tolerated” at synagogues and religious sites.

In his negotiations with FBI agents, which lasted for hours, the suspect had called for the release of Pakistani scientist Aafia Siddiqui, who for the past 12 years has been serving an 86-year prison sentence in Texas for having tried to kill US soldiers and agents while he was detained in Afghanistan.

Although in those talks, Akram has said that he was Siddiqui’s brother, the attorney for Siddiqui, Marwa Elbially, later said that there was no family link between the two men and condemned Akram’s actions.

FBI special agent in charge of the operation Matthew DeSarno said at a press conference on Saturday night that Akram’s motive seemed to be exclusively to achieve Siddiqui’s release from prison, adding that it did not seem that his acts were specifically linked to the Jewish community.

However, he did not rule out that the investigation could lead authorities to other conclusions and both Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris in separate statements condemned any “anti-Semitic” acts in the US.

One of the four hostages Akram took at the Beth Israel synagogue was Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, who on Sunday on his Facebook page expressed his thankfulness to be alive after the incident.

EFE llb/laa/bp

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