Saturday, May 28

‘We were terrified’: Texas rabbi and parishioners detail hostage drama | Texas


The rabbi and congregants at the Beth Israel Synagogue in Colleyville, Texas, began offering accounts of their 11-hour ordeal, partially broadcast live, at the hands of British hostage-taker Malik Faisal Akram.

Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker said CBS he initially welcomed the stranger, who had been staying at a homeless shelter in Dallas, and made him a cup of tea. He said the man was not threatening or suspicious at first.

“Some of his story didn’t quite add up, so I was a little curious, but that’s not necessarily something uncommon,” the rabbi said. Cytron-Walker said he invited Akram to join the morning service.

As he turned his back to face Jerusalem, he heard the click of a gun. During a period of silent prayer that followed, Rabbi he told the New York Times, he approached Akram and told him that he could stay for the full service.

Akram then revealed a gun and pointed it at the rabbi, setting off a drama that he told the outlet was tense and terrifying. “It was a lot of talking, trying to keep things calm, trying to help him see us as human beings and listening to him rant,” she said. “Everyone, for the most part, was able to stay calm.”

Akram took four people hostage, including the rabbi, and some of his comments were broadcast live to remote worshipers.

“I am fired. I am full of ammunition,” Akram told someone he called a nephew. “Guess what, I’ll die.” He was also heard saying, “I’m not a criminal.”

The FBI said in a statement that Akram “spoke repeatedly about a convicted terrorist serving an 86-year prison sentence in the United States,” an apparent reference to Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist serving an 86-year sentence after being found guilty. of attempted murder in an assault on US soldiers in Afghanistan.

Akram ultimately did not harm the hostages, the rabbi told CBS, but they had been threatened during their ordeal. But the situation became more tense as the hours passed. Jeffrey R Cohen, another kidnapped man, described the ordeal on Facebook. “First of all, we escaped. We were not released or released,” Cohen said.

Cohen described how they had spoken with the gunman during his captivity. He later told the Times that the four hostages stayed together and were able to establish a good relationship with Akram so that one was released.

However, as the situation dragged on, Cohen said the gunman eventually told the remaining three to kneel. But when the gunman moved to sit back down, the rabbi told them to run according to an escape plan they had developed.

“In the final hour of our hostage crisis, the gunman became increasingly belligerent and threatening,” Cytron-Walker said in a statement Sunday. “There was a lot more screaming, a lot more threats,” he told the Times.

The rabbi said he came up with a plan to escape. They headed for an exit. When the pizza was delivered, he suggested that another hostage go get it. Eventually everyone was within 20 feet of the exit.

“We were terrified,” Cytron-Walker told CBS. “And when I saw an opportunity where I wasn’t in a good position, I made sure the two gentlemen that were still with me were ready to go.”

“The exit was not very far. I told them to go away. I threw a chair at the gunman and headed for the door,” he said. “And the three of us were able to get out without even firing a shot.”

After the hostages left the building, Akram briefly followed them before returning inside the building. Police then moved to another part of the building before setting off an explosive device to gain entry. Akram was killed amid gunshots.

Cytron-Walker credited the security training with the successful escape of the hostages. “It’s horrible that this type of instruction is needed in our current society,” he told the newspaper. “But we can’t always deal with the reality we want. We have to deal with reality as it exists.”


www.theguardian.com

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