UK national identified as Texas synagogue hostage taker: Malik Faisal Akram spent first weeks in US in homeless shelters

The 44-year-old British national, who had taken four people captive in a synagogue in Texas, was shot and killed, ending the tense stand-off after more than 10 hours

FP Staff January 17, 2022 10:56:48 IST
UK national identified as Texas synagogue hostage taker: Malik Faisal Akram spent first weeks in US in homeless shelters

Police stand in front of the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue in Colleyville, Texas. A man held hostages for more than 10 hours Saturday inside the temple. The hostages were able to escape and the hostage taker was killed. AP

The man, who left America shaken on Sunday after taking four people hostage at the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue in the Dallas suburb of Colleyville in Texas, has been identified as Malik Faisal Akram, a 44-year-old British national by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

We take a look at who he is and what happened on Sunday — the tense 11-hour hostage standoff, which ended with Akram being gunned down by authorities.

Who is Malik Faisal Akram?

According to authorities, Malik Faisal Akram (44) was a resident of Blackburn.

Akram's 'devastated' brother Gulbar Akram shared a message on social media that he had been working with the FBI and 'liaising' with his sibling throughout the stand-off.

He also apologised and blamed 'mental health issues' for Malik's actions.

During the stand-off, the 44-year-old could be heard demanding the release of Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist suspected of having ties to Al Qaeda, who was convicted in 2010 of trying to kill US military officers while in custody in Afghanistan. Siddiqui is in federal prison in Texas serving an 86-year sentence.

The hostage-taker referred to Siddiqui as his 'sister' on the livestream, but John Floyd, board chair for the Houston chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations – the nation’s largest Muslim advocacy group – was quoted as telling The Guardian that Siddiqui’s brother, Mohammad Siddiqui, was not involved.

US President Joe Biden described Akram's actions as an 'act of terror', adding that there was not yet sufficient information as to why the gunman had specifically targeted a synagogue.

Biden later added that it is understood that Akram purchased the weapons used during the stand-off 'on the street' and spent his first night in the US 'in a homeless shelter'.

"He purchased them when he landed and it turns out there apparently were no bombs that we know of. ... Apparently he spent the first night in a homeless shelter."

Akram arrived in the US recently on a tourist visa from Great Britain approximately five weeks ago, according to a US official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the information was not intended to be public.

London’s Metropolitan Police said in a statement that its counter-terrorism police were liaising with US authorities about the incident.

Gulbar later revealed his brother had a criminal record and questioned how he was eligible to enter the United States in the first place.

An Associated Press report citing a rabbi who was among four people held hostage at the Texas synagogue said that their armed captor grew “increasingly belligerent and threatening” toward the end of the 10-hour standoff, which ended with an FBI SWAT team rushing into the building and the captor's death.

“In the last hour of our hostage crisis, the gunman became increasingly belligerent and threatening,” Cytron-Walker said in a statement. “Without the instruction we received, we would not have been prepared to act and flee when the situation presented itself."

How events unfolded on Sunday

The siege in the small Texas town of Colleyville ended nearly 10 hours later when all four people taken hostage at the synagogue were freed and the suspected captor was dead.

Police were first called to the synagogue about 11 am and people were evacuated from the surrounding area soon after that, FBI Dallas spokeswoman Katie Chaumont said.

One hostage was released unharmed after being held for six hours and the remaining three were later safely freed by the FBI team.

In a statement to CNN, Cytron-Walker described the ordeal as a "traumatic experience." He said that he and the other hostages are alive today due to the multiple security courses his congregation has taken over the years.

"Without the instruction we received, we would not have been prepared to act and flee when the situation presented itself," Cytron-Walker said. "I encourage all Jewish congregations, religious groups, schools, and others to participate in active-shooter and security courses."

With inputs from agencies

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