Hostages are seen in video footage from WFAA running from the Congregation Beth Israel, a synagogue in the Fort Worth suburb of Colleyville, after an incident Saturday. Photo courtesy WFAA
Jan. 16 (UPI) — The man accused of taking four people hostage at a synagogue in Texas on Saturday is dead, authorities said.
The suspect, identified by the FBI on Sunday as Malik Faisal Akram, had held the hostages while claiming to have explosives during an 11-hour standoff at Congregation Beth Israel — a synagogue in Colleyville in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex.
Akram, 44, had released one of the four hostages at around 5 p.m. CST before the three remaining hostages were rescued at around 9:15 p.m., the Colleyville Police Department said in a press release. Video footage from WFAA shows law enforcement breaching the building as hostages appear to run from it.
Colleyville Police Chief Michael Miller and federal law enforcement officials said during a news conference Saturday night that the suspect had died, but did not reveal further details about the man’s death.
The British Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office confirmed to UPI that Akram was a British national and that the British government is working with U.S. authorities to support the investigation.
“We are aware of the death of a British man in Texas and are in contact with the local authorities,” an FCDO spokesperson said.
On Sunday night, the Great Manchester Police Department said in a statement that Counter Terror Police North West had arrested two teenagers for questioning in connection to the attack.
He said he told Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton to make sure word spreads to synagogues and other places of worship “that we’re not going to tolerate this, that we have this capacity to deal with” assaults and antisemitism.
The president added that while the suspect had no explosives that the authorities are aware of he had purchased weapons illegally after landing in country a few weeks ago, purportedly off the streets while staying at a homeless shelter.
Law enforcement agencies believe Akram may have been motivated by a desire to secure the release of convicted terrorist Aafia Siddiqui, who is currently jailed at Carswell Air Force Base’s Federal Medical Center near Fort Worth, which is located about 20 miles from the synagogue, CNN reported.
Biden seemingly confirmed this during his remarks, stating the attack “was related to someone who had been arrested” more than 15 years ago.
Siddiqui was sentenced to 86 years in prison in 2010 for the attempted murder and assault of U.S. nationals and officers and employees in Afghanistan.
“This morning, we are grateful that four people held hostage in a synagogue in Colleyville, Texas are safe and going home to their families,” Harris said. “We thank the brave men and women in federal, state, and local law enforcement, and we stand in solidarity with the Congregation Beth Israel community and the entire Jewish community.
“While we will learn more about the hostage taker’s motivation, we know this: what happened yesterday at Congregation Beth Israel is a reminder that we must speak up and combat antisemitism and hate wherever it exists,” Harris said. “Everyone has a right to pray, work, study, and spend time with loved ones not as the other — but as us.”
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett echoed Harris’ comments in a statement posted to Twitter.
“This event is a stark reminder that antisemitism is still alive and we must continue to fight it worldwide. To the Jewish community in Colleyville and around the world: You are not alone — we stand united with you,” Bennett tweeted.
The hostage situation prompted police departments in cities including Dallas, Los Angeles and New York to deploy additional patrols around synagogues “out of an abundance of caution” in the case of additional threats to the Jewish community.
Following the attack, the Anti-Defamation League, which fights against antisemitism, called on Congress to increase security funding for non-profit Jewish organizations, such as schools, from $180 million to $360 million starting next year.
“With threats against synagogues and other Jewish institutions arguably at an all-time high, it is imperative that the federal government provides appropriate levels of funding to mitigate the threat,” Jonathan Greenblatt, the ADL chief executive, said in a statement. “As we saw in Texas, it is urgently critical for Congress to increase funding to protect these non-profit organizations from future acts of terrorism or hate-motivated violence.”