Thu, 26 May 2022

US Synagogue Hostage Taker Identified as British National

Voice of America
17 Jan 2022, 09:05 GMT+10

U.S. authorities on Sunday identified a 44-year-old British national as the man who took four people hostage at a Texas synagogue for 10 hours before law enforcement commandos stormed the building Saturday night and ended the standoff.

The hostages at Congregation Beth Israel near Fort Worth, Texas, were freed and an FBI strategic weapons team shot and killed Malik Faisal Akram.

U.S. President Joe Biden praised the "courageous work" of the law enforcement agents and said antisemitism represented by the attack would not be tolerated.

"There is more we will learn in the days ahead about the motivations of the hostage taker," Biden said. "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 FBI said in a statement there was no indication that anyone else was involved in the attack, but it didn't provide a possible motive.

Akram was heard ranting on a Facebook livestream about the religious services and demanding the release of a Pakistani neuroscientist who was convicted of trying to kill U.S. Army officers in Afghanistan.

Video from Dallas TV station WFAA showed people running out a door of the synagogue, and then a man holding a gun opening the same door just seconds later before he turned around and closed it. Moments later, several rounds of gunfire could be heard, followed by the sound of an explosion.

During a visit to a food pantry in Philadelphia on Sunday morning, Biden told reporters, "Rest assured, we are focused.' He said Attorney General Merrick Garland "is focused and making sure that we deal with these kinds of acts.'

FILE - Pakistani Aafia Siddiqui is seen in a Feb. 3, 2010 courtroom sketch in New York City, New York, in this still image taken from video footage, Jan. 18, 2013. FILE - Pakistani Aafia Siddiqui is seen in a Feb. 3, 2010 courtroom sketch in New York City, New York, in this still image taken from video footage, Jan. 18, 2013.

Texas Hostage-Taking Draws Attention to Pakistani Woman Imprisoned in US

The Associated Press reported that investigators told it that Akram demanded the release of Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist suspected of having ties to al-Qaida and who is in a federal prison in Texas. Akram also said he wanted to be able to speak with her, according to the officials.

Siddiqui earned advanced degrees from Brandeis University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology before she was sentenced in 2010 to 86 years in prison on charges that she assaulted and shot at U.S. Army officers after being detained in Afghanistan two years earlier.

The punishment sparked outrage in Pakistan among political leaders and her supporters, who viewed her as victimized by the American criminal justice system.

During the incident, Marwa Elbially, her attorney, issued a statement condemning the hostage-taking.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said on Twitter that he had been monitoring the situation closely.

'This event is a stark reminder that antisemitism is still alive and we must continue to fight it worldwide,' he wrote. Bennett said he was 'relieved and thankful' that the hostages were rescued.

Ayaz Gul in Islamabad contributed to this report. Some material came from The Associated Press.

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