Saturday, June 3

‘An Act of Terror’: Biden Condemns Texas Synagogue Siege, While FBI Names Brit as Kidnapper | Texas

US President Joe Biden has condemned a tense 11-hour standoff with hostages at a synagogue in Texas on Saturday as “an act of terror” as the FBI named the armed assailant Malik Faisal Akram, a British citizen from 44 years.

Akram was pronounced dead after the FBI stormed the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue in Colleyville, a Dallas suburb, on Saturday night. All four hostages survived the siege and were unharmed, according to local police.

UK security sources confirmed to The Guardian that the suspect had been a resident of Blackburn in Lancashire.

The confrontation began during a Saturday morning service at the Reform synagogue in the affluent city of about 26,000 people. The service was live streaming on Facebook when a man with a British accent was heard yelling off camera. The transmission was finally cut off hours later and the police were called around 10:41 a.m.

A male hostage, believed to be the synagogue’s rabbi, was released around 5pm as negotiations continued throughout the day. Armed FBI officers stormed the building and rescued the remaining three hostages around 9 pm, authorities said. Details of how Akram died have not been released.

London counter-terrorism police confirmed they were in contact with their US counterparts on Sunday when the FBI confirmed an active investigation, but added that they believed Akram had acted alone.

Speaking to reporters on Sunday, President Biden described the incident as “an act of terror” and confirmed that it had been reported by US Attorney General Merrick Garland.

President Joe Biden speaks about rescuing hostages taken at a Texas synagogue, before packing food at a hunger relief organization in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on Sunday.
President Joe Biden speaks about rescuing hostages taken at a Texas synagogue, before packing food at a hunger relief organization in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on Sunday. Photograph: Joshua Roberts/Reuters

Asked by reporters how Akram could have acquired weapons in the US, Biden said he did not have all the facts of the case, but “the claim was that he got the weapons off the street. He bought them when he landed.

Also Read  Bolivia: government orders the repeal of the "mother law" that had caused the worst protests since the departure of Evo Morales in 2019

It was not immediately clear how long Akram had been in the US before carrying out the attack. The US Department of Homeland Security did not immediately respond to questions about when Akram entered the country and on what visa.

The president said he had contacted the synagogue’s rabbi, Charlie Cytron-Walker, who published an account of the incident in facebook on sunday. “I am grateful that I made it through,” Cytron-Walker wrote. “I am grateful to be alive.”

In a statement released earlier, Biden praised the “courageous work” of law enforcement officers who responded to the scene and sent “love and strength” to synagogue worshipers and members of the Jewish community.

FBI Special Agent in Charge Matt DeSarno said the hijacker specifically targeted an issue not directly related to the Jewish community, and there was no immediate indication the man was part of a larger plan. But DeSarno said the agency’s investigation “will be global in scope.”

During the live broadcast, Akram could be heard demanding the release of Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist suspected of having links to al Qaeda, who was convicted in 2010 of attempting to kill US military officers while in custody in Afghanistan. Siddiqui is in a Texas federal prison serving an 86-year sentence.

The hijacker referred to Siddiqui as his “sister” on the live stream, but John Floyd, chairman of the board of the Houston chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the nation’s largest Muslim advocacy group, confirmed that Siddiqui’s brother, Mohammad Siddiqui, was not involved.

On Sunday, British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss condemned the incident in a statement posted on Twitter. “My thoughts are with the Jewish community and all those affected by the terrible act in Texas. We condemn this act of terrorism and anti-Semitism,” Truss said. He added: “We stand with the United States in defending the rights and freedoms of our citizens against those who spread hate.”

Also Read  Lisbon City Council fined for disclosing data on Russian opponents to Putin

Shortly after Akram was named as the kidnapper, a publication on the Blackburn Muslim Community Facebook page was uploaded, supposedly written by his brother Gulbar.

The post said Akram was “suffering from mental health problems” but the family was “confident he would not harm the hostages.” He claimed that family members had been sitting in an incident room all night in contact with Akram, the FBI and hostage negotiators.

The post claimed that Akram freed the remaining three hostages before “a shootout ensued and he was shot to death.”

“There was nothing we could have said or done to him that would have convinced him to give up,” the post reads.

He adds: “We would also like to add that any attack on any human being, whether Jewish, Christian or Muslim, etc., is wrong and should always be condemned.”

The Guardian has not confirmed the veracity of the publication, but a statement written in the same words was reported by Sky News.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *