Colleyville, Texas: FBI identifies hostage taker at Texas Synagogue


An FBI hostage rescue team killed Akram after the hostages were released around 9 p.m. local time, the agency said. Investigators at the Congregation Beth Israel crime scene in Colleyville, Texas — about 15 miles from Fort Worth — recovered a firearm they believe belonged to Akram, a spokesperson for the office told CNN. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

“Prayers have been answered. All hostages made it out alive and safe,” Governor Greg Abbott tweeted about 20 minutes after a loud bang and gunshots were heard heading towards the synagogue.

The resolution came nearly 11 a.m. after Akram entered the synagogue while livestreaming his Sabbath morning service on Facebook and Zoom around 11 a.m. Saturday, Colleyville Police Chief Michael Miller. The live stream appeared to capture part of the incident before it was deleted.

Four people, including Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, were first taken hostage. A male hostage was released unharmed around 5 p.m., Colleyville Police Sgt. said Dara Nelson.

Cytron-Walker said the shooter had become “increasingly belligerent and menacing” over the last hour of their hostage situation.

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

“Without the instructions we received, we would not have been ready to act and flee when the situation arose,” Cytron-Walker said. “I encourage all Jewish congregations, religious groups, schools and others to participate in active shooter and safety courses.”

President Joe Biden told reporters on Sunday that authorities “just don’t have enough facts” to speculate why a man targeted a synagogue in Colleyville, Texas, taking four hostages on Saturday, calling it the “act of terror” confrontation.

“I don’t – we don’t have I think there’s enough information to know why he targeted that synagogue, why he insisted on the release of someone who has been in jail for over 10 years, why he was hired, why he used anti-Semitic and anti-Israel comments,” Biden told reporters.

Akram arrived in the United States about five weeks ago, landing at JFK airport in New York, a law enforcement source familiar with the investigation told CNN.

He arrived legally in December, a separate federal law enforcement source told CNN. Therefore, Akram authorized pre-arrival screening, which would have been checked against classified and unclassified information available at the time.

Akram was not on a US government watch list, the law enforcement source said.

A review so far of US intelligence community databases containing information on terrorism threats shows no prior derogatory information about Akram, according to the official.

British intelligence officials have informed their American counterparts that a preliminary review of their databases also does not show any derogatory information about Akram, the source said. UK authorities continue to clean up their systems.

British counter-terrorism police in Greater Manchester announced on Sunday the detention of two teenagers in connection with the hostage-taking. The two individuals, who were arrested in south Manchester, remain in custody for questioning.

Authorities are still trying to figure out how Akram got to Texas.

The suspect spent days in a homeless shelter

Akram spent three nights at Union Gospel Mission Dallas, a homeless shelter, the week before the incident, according to the shelter’s CEO, Bruce Butler.

“We were a weigh station for him. He had a plan. He was very quiet. He came and went,” Butler told CNN in a phone call Sunday.

Butler said Akram initially checked into the shelter on January 6, before leaving and returning several times over the course of a week.

He last left the facility on Jan. 13, Butler said, just over 48 hours before taking four people hostage inside the synagogue about 22 miles away.

Butler could not gather much about Akram’s personality and said there was nothing obvious or telling about Akram’s personal religious beliefs.

Two law enforcement officials told CNN on Saturday that investigators believe Akram may have been motivated by a desire to free Aafia Siddiqui, who is serving an 86-year sentence in a Texas facility. She was convicted in 2010 of seven counts, including attempted murder and assault with a weapon against US officers in Afghanistan.

“We believe from our engagement with this topic that it was singularly focused on an issue, and not specifically related to the Jewish community, but we will continue to work to find a motive,” he said. said DeSarno.

Akram also told hostage negotiators that he was not going to leave the synagogue alive, a US law enforcement source with knowledge of the investigation told CNN.

The source said that during the conversation with the negotiators, Akram demanded that Siddiqui be brought to the synagogue so they could both die together.

“I just want a bullet inside me, and I want to go – that’s it,” Akram was heard saying in the livestream. Akram reiterated that sentiment in two phone conversations captured on the livestream.

“I’m armed. I’m full of ammunition. Guess what, I’m going to die,” he told an individual he called his nephew. Later, he told a second caller, “I’m going to die, so don’t cry for me.

The suspect apparently wanted Siddiqui released

Officials said they believe Akram wanted Siddiqui released, based on both discussions with the suspect and audio heard on the synagogue live stream.

The lawyer representing Siddiqui said on Saturday “she had absolutely no involvement in” the synagogue hostage-taking and said the perpetrator was not Siddiqui’s brother.

“She does not want any violence perpetrated against any human being, especially in her name,” Marwa Elbially told CNN by phone. “It obviously has nothing to do with Dr. Siddiqui or his family.”

At the request of the hostage taker, the rabbi of the congregation who was being held hostage called a well-known rabbi in New York, according to two officials briefed on the investigation.

The FBI has questioned the New York-based rabbi who spoke to the hostage taker earlier on Saturday. The hostage taker, who has no connection to the rabbi, told her that Siddiqi had been framed and wanted her released, officials said.

Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas.

Congregation Beth Israel is affiliated with the Union for Reform Judaism, whose website says the congregation serves 157 member families.

The synagogue, established in 1999 with 25 member families, was the first Jewish congregation in Northeast Tarrant County, according to the CBI website. The CBI community officially opened the doors to its new building in 2005.

CBI holds Sabbath morning services every Saturday, and members and non-members alike are welcome to watch from home on the livestream, a practice many synagogues have adopted due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Who is Aafia Siddiqui?

In 2010, Siddiqui was sentenced to 86 years in prison by a federal judge in New York after a 14-day trial. A jury found her guilty of attempted murder of US nationals and government employees, as well as assault on US officers and employees.

Siddiqui – a Pakistani scientist who graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and holds a doctorate from Brandeis University – was arrested for questioning by Afghan National Police in 2008, who said they found handwritten notes referring to potential targets of an “attack which caused numerous victims”, according to a federal indictment.

When a group of Americans tried to talk to her, prosecutors say she was able to grab a US soldier’s rifle and open fire on the interrogation team, although no one was hit by gunshots.

sister of "Lady Al Qaeda": "We do not want violence in the name of Aafia"

At sentencing, the judge found that an amelioration of terrorism applied to her crimes, citing statements she made that the judge found demonstrating her actions and intent to retaliate against the government. American, including “I Hate Americans” and “Death to America”.

His conviction has been the subject of regular protests in the United States and abroad. Frequent protests have been organized by the Aafia Foundation, a group that bears his name. This group claimed that she had been assaulted in prison last year.

Her family said in interviews with CNN that she was not a terrorist.

During a deadly hostage situation in Algeria in 2013, a spokesman for a militant group offered to release hostages if Siddiqui was freed from US prison, along with Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, the mastermind of the attack on the World Trade Center in 1993, who has since died in prison.

Siddiqui is being held in a medical facility part of a federal prison in Fort Worth, with a release date set at 60.

CNN’s Shimon Prokupecz, Josh Campbell, Evan Perez, Ed Lavandera, Ashley Killough, Melissa Alonso, Radina Gigova and Sharon Braithwaite contributed to this report.


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