Friday, May 27

Texas kidnapper had UK criminal and mental health record | antisemitism


A British man who flew to the US, bought a gun and took hostages at a Texas synagogue had a criminal record and an extensive history of mental health problems, The Guardian understands.

Malik Faisal Akram, a 44-year-old man from Blackburn, was killed after a tense 11-hour standoff with hostages at the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue in the Dallas suburb of Colleyville on Saturday night. All four hostages survived the siege and were unharmed.

President Joe Biden on Sunday declared the incident an act of terror and British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said the UK government condemned “this act of terrorism and anti-Semitism.”

In a statement to Sky News, Akram’s brother Gulbar asked how he had been able to obtain a visa to enter the US He is known to the police. He has a criminal record. How was he allowed to obtain a visa and acquire a gun? he said.

Asked by reporters on Sunday how Akram could have acquired weapons in the US, Biden said: “The claim was that he got the weapons off the street. He bought them when he landed.

The Guardian understands that Akram had a criminal record in the UK, but there are no known convictions for terrorism. Investigators in the UK believe Akram had no connection to Texas and traveled there earlier this month. Officers from MI5, the British Security Service, were examining his records on Monday to see if they had ever met him.

Akram had been the subject of a 2001 exclusion order barring him from Blackburn Magistrates’ Court after he made comments about the September 11, 2001 attacks on the US.

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During the synagogue siege, 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.

As the siege unfolded, the British police were asked by the FBI to call Akram’s family to try to convince him to surrender. They talked to Akram while he was holding hostages, but were unable to convince him to give himself up.

British detectives continued to question two teenagers arrested in Manchester who are believed to be men. They are being questioned to see if they knew anything about Akram’s intentions to travel to the United States to organize the attack.

A community source in Blackburn said Akram was known to behave in unusual ways, including in and around mosques in the Lancashire town.

Malik Faisal Akram was known as Faisal to those who knew him in Blackburn, Lancashire. A neighbor of the old family home described him as “a bit impulsive” but otherwise an ordinary man who at one point had been trying to build a real estate business. “I never thought at all in my wildest dreams that this was ever going to happen.”

A taxi driver, who had known Akram since childhood, said that he had recently lost his business and his home. “He went through some bad problems, he must have lost a lot. But his mental health issues were genuine, we’ve known him our whole lives.”

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MP Kate Hollern said Akram’s actions were “not a reflection on Blackburn or any religious community”. Local council chief Mohammed Khan said Blackburn and Darwen would help with the investigation. “At Blackburn we strongly uphold the belief that no community should live in fear for their safety while practicing their religious beliefs or identity. We stand in solidarity in condemning this act of hate, violence and terror.”

The Lancashire Council of Mosques also condemned the hostage situation in Texas and urged its members to avoid speculation and the sharing of unverified information.

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 broadcast was eventually cut off hours later and police were called at around 10:41 am.

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.


www.theguardian.com

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