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British national identified as hostage-taker at Texas synagogue

Colleyville (US), January 16

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 an FBI SWAT team stormed the building, ending a tense standoff that President Joe Biden called “an act of terror.”

Malik Faisal Akram was shot and killed after the last of the hostages got out at around 9 PM Saturday at Congregation Beth Israel near Fort Worth.

In a statement, the FBI said there was no indication that anyone else was involved, but it didn’t provide a possible motive.

Akram could be heard ranting on a Facebook livestream of the services and demanding the release of a Pakistani neuroscientist who was convicted of trying to kill US Army officers in Afghanistan.

The FBI and police spokeswomen declined to answer questions Saturday night about who shot Akram when the standoff ended.

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.

“Rest assured, we are focused,” Biden said during a visit to a food pantry in Philadelphia on Sunday morning. “The attorney general is focused and making sure that we deal with these kinds of acts.” FBI Special Agent in Charge Matt DeSarno said the hostage-taker was specifically focused on an issue not directly connected to the Jewish community, and there was no immediate indication that the man was part of any broader plan. But DeSarno said the agency’s investigation “will have global reach.” It wasn’t clear why Akram chose the synagogue.

Law enforcement officials who were not authorised to discuss the ongoing investigation and who spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity earlier said the hostage-taker demanded the release of Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist suspected of having ties to al-Qaida who is in a federal prison in Texas.

He also said he wanted to be able to speak with her, according to the officials, one of whom confirmed that the hostage-taker was a British national.

A rabbi in New York City received a call from the rabbi believed to be held hostage in the synagogue to demand Siddiqui’s release, a law enforcement official said. The New York rabbi then called 911. (AP)

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