Texas synagogue standoff: Rabbi says hostage-taker became ‘increasingly belligerent’

COLLEYVILLE, Texas — The man who took four people hostage in a Texas synagogue on Saturday was a British national, the FBI confirmed Sunday.

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In a statement, the FBI identified the man as Malik Faisal Akram, 44, of Blackburn, according to a news release.

Update 3:30 p.m. EST Jan. 16: Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker of Congregation Beth Israel, near Fort Worth, said Malik Faisal Akram, who was identified as the hostage-taker, became “increasingly belligerent and threatening” near the end of the nearly 12-hour standoff.

In a statement, Cytron-Walker said that security training his congregation has received over years allowed him and the other three hostages to remain calm during the standoff, The Associated Press reported.

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

Original report: “The FBI’s Evidence Response Team (ERT) will continue processing evidence at the synagogue,” the FBI said in a news release. “At this time, there is no indication that other individuals are involved. The FBI’s North Texas Joint Terrorism Task Force (NTJTTF), which includes member agencies from across the region, will continue to follow investigative leads. An FBI Shooting Incident Review Team (SIRT) will conduct a thorough, factual, and objective investigation of the events.”

The hostages, who included Charlie Cytron-Walker, the rabbi at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, were released safely after a standoff that lasted nearly 12 hours.

Earlier, the United Kingdom’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, acknowledged that the hostage-taker was a British citizen. According to the Star-Telegram of Fort Worth, a U.K. office spokesperson said, “We are aware of the death of a British man in Texas and are in contact with the local authorities.”

The office is a ministerial department, the newspaper reported.

According to Sky News, Akram’s family said in a statement that they were “devastated” by his death, adding that they “do not condone any of his actions and would like to sincerely apologize wholeheartedly to all the victims involved in the unfortunate incident.”

In Philadelphia on Sunday, President Joe Biden said he had spoken with Attorney General Merrick Garland about the Colleyville incident and they were working to “address these types of acts.”

“This was an act of terror,” Biden said.

Matthew DeSarno, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Dallas office, has said that Akram was “singularly focused on one issue” that was not related to the Jewish community, The Dallas Morning News reported.

One male hostage was released at around 5 p.m. CST, WFAA-TV reported. According to police, that man, who has yet to be identified, was reunited with his family. The other three hostages were released at about 10 p.m. CST, according to The Associated Press.

Video from WFAA showed people running out a door of the synagogue, and then a man, believed to be Akram, 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.

Akram died in the synagogue, but the FBI and Colleyville Police Sgt. Dara Nelson declined to answer questions about who shot him.

The Texas Department of Public Safety told The New York Times that Akram had demanded earlier in the day to see his “sister,” identified later as Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist suspected of having ties to al-Qaida.

Authorities have not yet determined if Akram was a blood relative of Siddiqui’s but did confirm that she is in federal custody for “terroristic events” in Afghanistan, according to the Times.

Siddiqui was convicted in 2010 of trying to kill U.S. military officers two years earlier while in custody in Afghanistan, a law enforcement official told the AP. Siddiqui is in federal prison in Fort Worth, Texas, where she is serving an 86-year sentence, the Star-Telegram reported.