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Texas synagogue siege: British hostage taker named as Malik Faisal Akram – as two teenagers arrested in Manchester


(Sky News) The 44-year-old was not living in the United States but had recently travelled there before carrying out the attack on the synagogue in Colleyville on Saturday, Sky News understands.

The British man who was shot dead after taking four people hostage at a Texas synagogue has been named by the FBI as Malik Faisal Akram.

Sky News understands the 44-year-old from Blackburn was not living in the United States and had travelled there from the UK on 2 January.

It comes as two teenagers have been arrested in Manchester by officers from Counter Terror Policing North West as part of the investigation into the attack.

Greater Manchester Police said: “Two teenagers were detained in south Manchester this evening. They remain in custody for questioning.”

The Metropolitan Police’s counter-terrorism unit says it is also “liaising with US authorities and colleagues from the FBI”.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said he “absolutely stands in solidarity with the Jewish community, both in the UK and indeed in Texas”.

His official spokesman said: “This was a terrible and anti-Semitic act of terrorism.

“The Prime Minister’s thoughts are with the Jewish community both in Texas and around the world and we stand with our American friends against those who seek to spread hate and fear around the world.

“British authorities continue to provide full support to Texas and the US law enforcement agencies.”

Akram’s family apologise to hostages

Akram’s family say they are “devastated” by his death, adding that they “do not condone any of his actions and would like to sincerely apologise wholeheartedly to all the victims involved in the unfortunate incident”.

In a statement, Akram’s brother Gulbar said family members spent hours “liaising with Faisal” during the siege, and that although he was “suffering from mental health issues we were confident that he would not harm the hostages”.

“There was nothing we could have said to him or done that would have convinced him to surrender,” Gulbar added.

Sky News correspondent Inzamam Rashid, who has been speaking to Akram’s brother, said: “His brother tonight told us that Faisal suffered from severe mental health illnesses.

“He reiterated that his brother wouldn’t have wanted to hurt anyone and he was extremely apologetic about the panic and terror that his brother had caused in Texas.”

He said Gulbar was part of the negotiation team with the FBI speaking to his brother. He said he was “trying to get him to back down and to ensure that no harm was caused”.

Akram took four people hostage, including a rabbi, inside the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue in Colleyville at around 11 am local time on Saturday.

Hostage taker became ‘increasingly belligerent and threatening’

One was freed after six hours before an FBI SWAT team entered the building at around 9 pm, shot the attacker dead and released the other three unharmed.

The rabbi held hostage in the attack, Charlie Cytron-Walker, has said Akram became “increasingly belligerent and threatening” during the standoff.

Mr Cytron-Walker credited security training his congregation had received over the years for keeping the hostages safe.

Without that training “we would not have been prepared to act and flee when the situation presented itself”, he said.

The first part of the siege was captured on a Facebook livestream of the morning shabbat, which was cut off at about 2 pm.

Akram demanded release of Pakistani neuroscientist

On it the hostage taker was heard demanding the release of Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist suspected of having ties to al Qaeda, who was convicted of trying to kill US military officers while in custody in Afghanistan.

He said he wanted to speak to Siddiqui, who is being held at FMC Carswell in Fort Worth, Texas, following her conviction in 2010.

Witnesses claim he referred to her as his sister, but John Floyd, of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said Siddiqui’s brother was not involved.

“This assailant has nothing to do with Dr Aafia, her family, or the global campaign to get justice for Dr Aafia,” he said.

“We want the assailant to know that his actions are wicked and directly undermine those of us who are seeking justice for Dr Aafia.”

Nearby resident Victoria Francis told the Associated Press she tuned into the stream before the feed was turned off and heard a man say “I’m the guy with a bomb” and “if you make a mistake this is all on you”.

Video from Dallas TV Station WFAA also showed a number of people running out of the door of the synagogue and a man holding a gun.

The motive for the attack on the synagogue, which is around 30 miles from Dallas, is still unclear, and authorities are still trying to establish any relationship between Akram and Siddiqui.

Biden calls for ‘harder focus’ on guns

US President Joe Biden was briefed on the incident as it unfolded and has described it as an “act of terror”.

He suggested the attacker was able to get a gun from off the street and that the siege represented a “failure to focus as hard as we should on gun sales”.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss tweeted to say the UK “condemns this act of terrorism and anti-Semitism”, while UK ambassador to the US Karen Pierce said she was “deeply concerned by the news from Texas”.

“The UK & US stand shoulder to shoulder in defiance of terrorism and in defence of the fundamental rights and freedoms of our citizens,” she wrote.


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