Suspect in Texas synagogue hostage standoff identified

Suspect in Texas synagogue hostage standoff identified

The man who died after holding four people hostage at a Texas synagogue in what President Joe Biden called an act of terror was identified by the FBI on Sunday as a 44-year-old British citizen named Malik Faisal Akram.

The four hostages - including a respected local rabbi, Charlie Cytron-Walker - were all unharmed on Saturday night, prompting relief in the United States, where the Jewish community and Biden renewed calls to fight anti-Semitism.

Cytron-Walker made a statement on Sunday, and there is no doubt that this was a traumatic experience.

He said that we are resilient and we will recover.

The FBI's field office in Dallas said that there was no indication that anyone else was involved in the attack on the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue in the small Texas town of Colleyville.

A man identified as Akram's brother Gulbar said in a post to a local Muslim community Facebook page in Blackburn, north-west England - where British police said Akram was from - that the suspect had suffered from mental health problems.

"We would like to say that we do not condone any of his actions and would like to sincerely apologize to all the victims involved in the unfortunate incident," Gulbar said.

He said he had been in touch with law enforcement at the scene in Texas and that his family hoped to bring Akram's body back to Britain for a funeral.

Biden did not elaborate on the motive, but appeared to confirm that the hostage-taker was seeking the release of convicted terrorist Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist known as Lady Al Qaeda. This was an act of terror committed by an assailant who apparently insisted on the release of someone who's been in prison for over 10 years, Biden told reporters during a visit to a hunger relief organization in Philadelphia.

Britain's foreign minister Liz Truss has condemned the hostage-taking as an act of terrorism and anti-Semitism Siddiqui, the first woman suspected by the United States of having links to Al Qaeda and a cause celebre in Pakistan and South Asian jihadist circles, who was detained in Afghanistan in 2008.

She was sentenced in New York City to 86 years in prison for the attempted murder of US officers in Afghanistan two years later.

She is currently being held in a prison in Fort Worth, Texas - about 32 kilometers away from the synagogue that Akram attacked.

Siddiqui's lawyer said she had no involvement in the hostage situation and condemned it.

She isn't sure if she has any links with Akram.

FBI special agent Matthew DeSarno told reporters in Colleyville after the standoff that the investigation would have global reach. The suspect's demands were focused on one issue that was not specifically threatening to the Jewish community. Ambassador to Washington confirmed that British authorities provided their full support to Texas and US law enforcement agencies Cytron-Walker, credited with his congregation's previous security training from the FBI and others with their survival from a harrowing ordeal.

The rabbi said the gunman became increasingly belligerent and threatening in the last hour of the hostage crisis.

Without the instruction we received, we would not have been prepared to act and flee when the situation presented itself. Other residents of Colleyville, about 40 kilometers north-west of Dallas, were struggling to comprehend the incident.

Colleyville It is one of the safest towns in North Texas, said Austin Sewell, owner and founder of the North Texas Kings baseball club, whose field is across the street from the synagogue in a quiet residential neighborhood.

It's mind blowing, to be honest, he told AFP on Sunday.

The standoff involved about 200 local, state and federal law enforcement officers in Colleyville at one point.

A Facebook livestream of the congregation's Shabbat service appeared to capture audio of a man talking loudly, but did not show the scene inside the building.

One hostage was freed early in the standoff.

After what police said were extensive negotiations, an elite SWAT team burst into the synagogue and the remaining three hostages were freed.

Journalists nearby said that they heard a loud bang -- likely a flash-bang grenade used as a distraction and shots.

The siege caused an outpouring of concern from Jewish organizations.

Biden pledged to stand against anti-Semitism and the rise of extremism in this country.