Texas rabbi: prisoner in standoff raises late “combatant”

COLLEYVILLE, Texas (AP) — A rabbi, one of four people held hostage at a Texas synagogue, said Sunday that his armed captive became “increasingly belligerent and threatening” at the end of a 10-hour standoff that prompted FBI SWAT. Ended up with the team running into the building and the death of the captive.

Authorities have identified the hostage taker as 44-year-old British national Malik Faisal Akram, who was killed around 9 p.m. on Saturday after the last hostages fled the congregation in Beth Israel. involved but did not provide a probable motive.

The investigation spread to England, where police in Manchester announced late Sunday that two juveniles were in custody in connection with the standoff. Greater Manchester Police tweeted that counter-terrorism officers had made the arrests, but did not say whether the pair had been charged.

President Joe Biden called the incident an act of terror. Rabbi Charlie Citron-Walker credits the security training that his suburban Fort Worth congregation has received over the years for getting him and the other three hostages through the ordeal, which he described as painful.

“In the final hours of our hostage crisis, the gunman became increasingly belligerent and threatening,” Citroen-Walker said in a statement. “Without the instruction we received, we would not have been prepared to act and run away when the situation unfolded.”

Akram can be heard briefly boasting on the services’ Facebook livestream and demanding the release of Afiya Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist with ties to al-Qaeda, who has been accused of trying to kill US military officers in Afghanistan. was convicted.

Video from the end of the standoff from Dallas TV station WFAA shows people running out of a synagogue door, and then a man holding a gun, opening and closing the same door seconds later. Moments later, several shots and then an explosion could be heard.

Officials declined to say who shot Akram, saying it was still being investigated.

Speaking to reporters in Philadelphia on Sunday, Biden said Akram had allegedly bought a weapon on the streets.

Federal investigators believe Akram purchased the handgun used in the private sale to take the hostage, according to a person familiar with the matter, who spoke on condition of anonymity as the investigation continues. A law enforcement official said Akram had arrived in the US at New York’s John F Kennedy International Airport about two weeks ago.

A US official said on condition of anonymity that Akram had recently arrived in the US on a tourist visa from Great Britain, as the information was not intended to be made public. London’s Metropolitan Police said in a statement that its counter-terrorism police were contacting US officials about the incident.

FBI Special Agent Matt Disarno in charge said Saturday night that the hostage-taking focused specifically on an issue not directly related to the Jewish community. It was unclear why Akram chose the synagogue, although the prison where Siddiqui is serving his sentence is in Fort Worth.

On Sunday night, the FBI issued a statement calling the test a “terrorism case that targeted the Jewish community.” The agency said the Joint Terrorism Task Force is investigating.

“There is a one in a million chance that the gunman has picked up our congregation,” congregation president Michael Finfer said in a statement.

Officials said the police were first called to the synagogue around 11 a.m. and people were evacuated from the surrounding areas soon after.

According to the law enforcement official, Akram used his phone during the conversation to communicate with people other than law enforcement, who was not authorized to discuss the ongoing investigation by name and on condition of anonymity. Had talked.

Many heard that the hostage-taker referred to Siddiqui as his “sister” on the livestream. But John Floyd, board chairman of the Houston chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations – the country’s largest Muslim advocacy group – said Siddiqui’s brother, Mohammed Siddiqui, was not involved.

Floyd, who is also Mohamed Siddiqui’s legal adviser, said, “We want the attacker to know that his actions are wicked and directly undermine those of us who are demanding justice for Dr. Afia. are.”

Texas resident Victoria Francis, who said she watched the livestream for about an hour, said she heard the man rant against the US and claimed he had a bomb. Biden said there was apparently no explosives, despite the threats.

“He was just all over the map. He got so annoyed and the more irritated he got, the more threats he made, like ‘I’m the guy with the bomb. If you make a mistake, it’s all on you.’ And he would laugh at that, ”said Francis. “He was clearly in extreme distress.”

Collyville, a community of about 26,000 people, is about 15 miles (23 kilometers) northeast of Fort Worth. By Sunday morning, the police cordon around the synagogue had halved in either direction and FBI agents could be seen moving in and out of the building. A sign saying “Love”—with the “O” replaced with a Star of David—was planted in a neighbor’s lawn.

Arrived outside her home on Sunday, Citroen-Walker declined to elaborate on the episode. “It’s a little heavy as you can imagine. Yesterday it wasn’t fun,” he told the AP.

Andrew Mark Paley, a Dallas rabbi who was called to the scene to help families and hostages upon their release, said Citron-Walker acted as a calm and comforting presence. The first hostage was released shortly after 5 p.m., around the time that food was delivered to people inside the synagogue, but Paley said he did not know whether it was part of the conversation.

“He was a little surprised, actually, but I don’t know if it was some kind of shock or just the moment,” Paley said of the first hostage who was released.

Citron-Walker said that her congregation had received training from local authorities and the Secure Community Network, which was founded in 2004 by a coalition of Jewish organizations and describes itself as the “official security and protection organization” of the Jewish community in North America. as described. The organization’s CEO Michael Masters said the congregation provided safety training in August and was not previously aware of Akram.

The standoff prompted officers to tighten security in other places, including in New York City, where police said they carefully increased their presence “at major Jewish institutions”.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said on Twitter that “this incident is a clear reminder that anti-Semitism is still alive and we must continue to fight it around the world.”

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Tucker from Washington, D.C. Also contributing to This Reporter is Associated Press writer Paul J. Weber and Austin had Acacia Coronado; Michael Balsamo in Washington; Colleen Long in Philadelphia; Elliot Spaghett in San Diego; Jennifer McDermott in Providence, Rhode Island; Michael R. in New York. Sisak; Holly Meyer in Nashville, Tenn.; and Isaac Sharf in Jerusalem.

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