Updated Jan 17, 2022 - Politics & Policy

British national named in Colleyville synagogue standoff

synagogue
A law enforcement vehicle sits near the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue on Jan. 16. Photo: Brandon Bell/Getty Images

British national Malik Faisal Akram took four people hostage at a Texas synagogue outside Fort Worth on Saturday, the FBI said in a statement.

The latest: Greater Manchester Police, in Northwest England, tweeted on Sunday night that officers had arrested and detained two teenagers in South Manchester for questioning in relation to the siege in Colleyville, Texas, "as part of the ongoing investigation into the attack."

For the record: Authorities had initially declined to release the name of the 44-year-old suspect or identify the hostages, all adults, though police chief Michael Miller confirmed that one of those held was Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, who leads the congregation.

  • Cytron-Walker said in a statement Sunday that Akram became "increasingly belligerent and threatening" in the final hour of the hostage crisis. He credited previous security trainings his congregation had received for helping him and the other hostages survive the ordeal.
  • "Without the instruction we received, we would not have been prepared to act and flee when the situation presented itself," Cytron-Walker added.

Driving the news: Local police responded to a 911 call at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville about an hour after the synagogue's 10a.m. Shabbat services, which were being livestreamed on Facebook.

  • The FBI's Dallas Field Office, including crisis negotiators, and Texas Department of Public Safety then spent the next 10-plus-hours working alongside local authorities to resolve the standoff with Akram.
  • Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted about 9:30pm, "Prayers answered. All hostages are out alive and safe."

Zoom in: "Around 9pm, the ... hostage rescue team ... breached the synagogue, they rescued the three [remaining] hostages, the suspect is deceased," Miller said. One of the hostages was released earlier on Saturday.

  • Matt DeSarno, the special agent in charge at the FBI's Dallas Field Office, said Saturday night that the suspect was focused on "one issue that was not specifically threatening to the Jewish community."
  • The suspect said he wanted to see Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist, who is serving an 86-year sentence nearby, per the Texas Department of Public Safety. Siddiqui was convicted in 2010 for assaulting U.S. federal agents, employees and nationals in Afghanistan. Siddiqui's attorney condemned the synagogue incident, per CNN.

What they're saying: President Biden on Sunday called the siege "an act of terror," according to pool reports. The president, who said he was briefed again on Sunday morning by Attorney General Merrick Garland, also said he would be speaking with Rabbi Cytron-Walker.

  • "There is more we will learn in the days ahead about the motivations of the hostage taker. But let me be clear to anyone who intends to spread hate — we will stand against antisemitism and against the rise of extremism in this country," the president said in a statement on Saturday.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement Sunday evening, "For Congregation Beth Israel & the Jewish community, the immediate crisis is over. Yet the fear of rising antisemitism remains.

  • "We must answer hate with action & ensure synagogues and all houses of worship are sanctuaries of safety, Shabbat and other days of faithful observance a time of peace, and America a place of freedom for all," Mayorkas added.

Editor's note: This story has been updated throughout.

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