Colleyville, Texas: FBI identifies Texas synagogue hostage taker

The agency said an FBI Hostage Rescue Team killed Akram after the hostages were released around 9 p.m. local time. Crime scene investigators at Beth Israel Congregation in Colleyville, Texas – about 15 miles from Fort Worth – recovered a firearm they believe belonged to Akram, a spokesman for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives told CNN.

“Prayers answered. All hostages are alive and safe,” Governor Greg Abbott tweeted about 20 minutes after a loud bang and gunfire rang out in the direction of the synagogue. .

The resolution came nearly 11 hours after Akram entered the synagogue as it live-streamed the Sabbath morning service on Facebook and Zoom at around 11 a.m. Saturday, Colleyville Sheriff Michael Miller said. The live stream appeared to capture part of the incident before it was removed.

Four people, including Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, were initially taken hostage. One hostage, a man, was released unharmed around 5 p.m., Colleyville Police Sgt. Dara Nelson said.

Cytron-Walker said the gunman became increasingly “increasingly belligerent and threatening” in the final hour of their hostage crisis.

In a statement to CNN, Cytron-Walker described the ordeal as a “traumatic experience.” He said he and the other hostages are still alive today due to the many security locks his congregation has implemented over the years.

“Without the instructions we received, we wouldn’t have been prepared to act and run away when the situation came up,” Cytron-Walker said. “I encourage all synagogues, religious groups, schools and others to take courses in security and active shooting.”

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

“I don’t– we don’t I don’t think there’s enough information to know about why he targeted that synagogue, why he insisted on releasing someone who was already there. more than 10 years in prison, why is he,” Mr. Biden told reporters.

When I was 5 years old, I found a bomb in my synagogue

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

A separate federal law enforcement source told CNN that he arrived legally in December. As a result, Akram cleared his pre-arrival check, which will be checked based on the information that has been received. classified and unclassified were available at the time.

Law enforcement sources said Akram was not on the US government’s watch list.

To date, an assessment conducted of a US intelligence community database containing terrorist-related threat information has found no offensive information, according to the official. about Akram.

The source said British intelligence officials had advised their American counterparts that a preliminary review of their database had revealed no offensive information about Akram. The UK authorities are continuing to test their system.

UK Counter-Terrorism Police for Greater Manchester on Sunday announced the detention of two teenagers in connection with the hostage-taking. Both 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 several days at a homeless shelter

Akram had spent three nights at Union Gospel Mission Dallas, a homeless shelter, in the week before the incident, shelter CEO Bruce Butler said.

Butler told CNN in a phone call Sunday: “We were a path for him. He had a plan. He was very quiet. He was in and out,” Butler told CNN.

Butler said Akram initially checked into the shelter on January 6, before checking out and checking back in several times over the course of a week.

He last left the facility on January 13, according to Butler, a little more than 48 hours before taking four people hostage inside a synagogue about 22 miles away.

Butler could not gather much about Akram’s personality and said that nothing was clear or revealing 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 be released. Aafia Siddiqui, who is serving an 86-year sentence at a facility in Texas. She was convicted in 2010 of seven counts, including attempted murder and armed assault on US officers in Afghanistan.

DeSarno said: “We believe from our engagement with this topic that he is focused on one issue and that it is not specifically relevant to the Jewish community, but we will continue to work on it. to find the motive.

Akram also told the hostage negotiators that he would not leave the synagogue while he was alive, a US law enforcement source familiar with the investigation told CNN.

The source said that in conversation with the negotiators, Akram demanded that Siddiqui be taken to the synagogue so that they both die.

“I just wanted to have a bullet in me, and I wanted to go – that’s it,” Akram said during the live stream. Akram echoed that sentiment in two phone conversations during the live stream.

“I’m ready. I’m ready. I’m ready. Guess, I’m going to die,” he told someone he called his nephew. He then told a second person who called him, “I’m dying, so don’t cry for me.”

The suspect seems to want Siddiqui to be released

Officials said Akram wanted Siddiqui to be released, based on both discussions with the suspect and audio heard on the synagogue’s live stream.

The lawyer representing Siddiqui on Saturday said she was “absolutely unrelated” to the synagogue hostage-taking and said the gunman was not Siddiqui’s brother.

“She doesn’t want any possible violence against any human being, especially in her name,” Marwa El baseballly told CNN by phone. “It clearly has nothing to do with Dr Siddiqui or her family.”

At the request of the hostage-taker, the rabbi of the congregation being held hostage is known as a prominent New York City rabbi, according to two investigative officials briefed on the matter.

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

Beth Israel Congregation in Colleyville, Texas.

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

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

The CBI holds morning services every Saturday and members and non-members are welcome to watch it live at home, a practice many synagogues have adopted due to their representatives. Covid-19 pandemic.

Who is Aafia Siddiqui?

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

Siddiqui – a Pakistani scientist who graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and earned his doctorate from Brandeis University – was detained for questioning by the Afghan National Police in 2008. An attack that caused mass casualties ,” according to a federal indictment.

When a group of Americans tried to speak to her, prosecutors said she was able to grab the American soldier’s rifle and open fire on the interrogation team, although no one was hit.

Sister of & # 39;  Lady al Qaeda & # 39 ;: & # 39;  We want no violence in the name of Aafia & # 39;

In sentencing, the judge found that increased terrorism was applied to her crimes, citing statements she had made that the judge concluded represented a major act and intent of retaliation. her government of the United States, including “I Hate Americans” and “Die for America.”

Her conviction has been the subject of frequent protests in the United States and abroad. Regular protests have been organized by the Aafia Foundation, a group named after her. That group has claimed that she was assaulted in prison last year.

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

During the deadly hostage crisis in Algeria in 2013, a spokesman for a militant group offered to release the hostages if Siddiqui was released from a US prison, along with Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, the mastermind behind the attack. World Trade Center in 1993, who’s been dead ever since. prison.

Siddiqui is being held in a federal prison medical facility in Fort Worth, with his release date set to be 60 years from now.

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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