The family of a 44-year-old British Muslim man who was shot dead by police in Texas after launching a terror attack on a synagogue last night demanded to know how he was allowed into America despite a long criminal record.
Malik Faisal Akram, from Blackburn, died in a hail of bullets after a 10-hour stand-off on Saturday in which four people were held hostage at the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue in Colleyville, 27 miles from Dallas.
Akram had apparently flown to America two weeks ago, lived in homeless shelters and bought a gun on the street, according to US President Joe Biden.
He was described by his family as suffering ‘mental health issues’ but concerns over a wider plot grew last night as two teenagers were arrested over the incident by anti-terror officers in south Manchester.
The pair, both believed to be under 18, cannot be identified for legal reasons. They were still in custody overnight, Greater Manchester Police said.
However the FBI’s field office in Dallas had earlier said there was ‘no indication’ that anyone else was involved in what President Biden called ‘an act of terror’.
Malik’s brother Gulbar issued a statement on behalf of the family last night in which he told of their ‘devastation’ and revealed how relatives had been in contact with Malik during his attack at the police’s request but could not convince him to surrender.
But speaking to Sky News he also demanded to know how the incident had been allowed to unfold. ‘He’s known to police. Got a criminal record. How was he allowed to get a visa and acquire a gun?’, he said.
Malik Faisal Akram, 44, (pictured) was shot dead by the FBI’s elite Hostage Rescue Team after holding four hostages for more than 10 hours at Congregation Beth Israel synagogue in Colleyville, Texas on Saturday
A post shared on social media asked for forgiveness for British terrorist Faisal Akram, 44, who was shot dead by an FBI SWAT team after a 10-hour armed stand-off at a synagogue in Colleyville, Texas
US President Joe Biden described Akram’s actions as an ‘act of terror’ during a visit to a Philadelphia food bank on Sunday
One of the hostages at the Congregation Beth Israel in, Colleyville, Texas, was released and taken to his family. Authorities have said all hostages are now out and safe after the terrorist was shot
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss took to Twitter to condemn the ‘appalling act of terrorism and anti-Semitism in Texas’. Ms Truss added: ‘We stand with US in defending the rights and freedoms of our citizens against those who spread hate’
The standoff is taking place at the Congregation Beth Israel, in Colleyville, just 27 miles from Dallas
In his online statement posted hours earlier, Gulbar wrote: ‘It is with great, great sadness I will confirm my brother Faisal passed away in Texas, USA this morning.
President Joe Biden says hostage situation at Texas synagogue was an ‘act of terror’
President Joe Biden said on Sunday that a gunman who disrupted a religious service in a synagogue in Colleyville, Texas and took four people hostage had engaged in an ‘act of terror.’
‘This was an act of terror; it was an act of terror,’ Biden said of the Saturday incident.
He added that there was not sufficient information on why the gunman had targeted the synagogue.
Biden indicated that he would have more to say and more information to share during his planned Wednesday press conference
The president spoke to reporters as he and First Lady Jill Biden volunteered packing carrots and apples at a Philadelphia-area food bank to honor the legacy of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.
An FBI Hostage Rescue Team stormed the synagogue on Saturday night to free the remaining three hostages; one other hostage had been freed earlier.
Earlier on Sunday the agency identified the suspect as 44-year-old Malik Faisal Akram, a British national from the town of Blackburn in England.
He was shot dead by federal law enforcement officials who stormed the synagogue at the end of a 10-hour stand-off.
Biden gave additional details about Akram during brief remarks at the Philabundance food bank.
‘I don’t have all the facts and neither does the Attorney General, but allegedly the assertion was he got the weapons on the street, that he purchased them when he landed,’ Biden said.
‘And it turns out there were apparently no bombs that we know of, even though he said that there were bombs there as well.
‘He apparently spent the first night in a homeless shelter — I don’t have all the details, so I’m reluctant to go into much more detail, but allegedly he purchased it on the street. What that means, I don’t know if he purchased it from an individual in the homeless shelter or a homeless community.’
Biden said he has yet to contact Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, who was leading the Sabbath service and was among Akram’s four hostages.
‘I’ll put a call into the Rabbi. We missed one another on the way up here, but rest assured, we are focused. We are focused,’ the president said.
‘The attorney general is focused that we deal with these kinds of acts. And thank God we had such professional FBI as well as local cooperation. I was told it was incredible, so I just wanted to let you know that.’
Asked if the incident meant a new push to restrict firearm access, Biden said: ‘The idea of background checks are critical, but you can’t stop something like this if someone is on the street buying something from somebody else on the street.’
He indicated he would have more to say at his upcoming Wednesday press conference.
‘We are absolutely devastated as a family. We can’t say much now as there is an ongoing FBI investigation.
‘We would like to say that we as a family do not condone any of his actions and would like to sincerely apologize wholeheartedly to all the victims involved in the unfortunate incident.
‘Sitting in the incident room all last night at Greenbank [Police Station in Blackburn] until the early hours liaising with Faisal, the negotiators, FBI etc.
‘And although my brother was suffering from mental health issues we were confident that he would not harm the hostages.
‘There was nothing we could have said to him or done that would have convinced him to surrender.
‘Obviously our priority will be to get him back to the UK for his funeral prayers although we have been warned it could take weeks.
‘We would also like to add that any attack on any human being be it a Jew, Christian or Muslim etc is wrong and should always be condemned.
‘It is absolutely inexcusable for a Muslim to attack a Jew or for any Jew to attack a Muslim, Christian, Hindu vice versa etc.’
A later post shared on Facebook by Blackburn Muslim Community pleaded for patience and respect for the family. The statement read: ‘Faisal Akram has sadly departed from this temporary world and returned to his Creator.
‘May the Almighty forgive all his sins and bless him with the highest ranks of Paradise. May Allah give strength and patience to his loved ones in dealing with their loss.’
It remained unclear this morning why Akram flew to Texas, 4,700 miles away from his Lancashire home, to carry out his attack.
He was shot dead at around 9pm local time (3pm GMT) by the FBI’s elite Hostage Rescue Team after holding four hostages, including the rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker for ten hours.
The incident began when Akram entered the building as it was livestreaming a service, shouting that he had weapons and ‘backpacks of explosives’ on him.
He demanded the release of jailed female terrorist Aafia Siddiqu – known as Lady Al Qaeda. He referred to her as his ‘sister’ during the attack but the pair are not related. She is being held in a jail about 20 miles from Colleyville.
From inside the Texas synagogue, the assailant told a SWAT team: ‘If anyone tries to enter this building, I’m telling you…everyone will die.’
He could be heard ranting, in what appeared to be a British accent, on the synagogue’s Sabbath livestream, before it was cut off at 2pm CST, saying: ‘I’m going to die. Don’t cry about me’
‘Are you listening? I am going to die,’ he repeated over and over.
Leaders from the Islamic Center of Southlake, who have worked closely with Rabbi Cytron-Walker to help unite the faithful in the Dallas-Fort Worth area came out to the scene to denounce the attack and pray for their friend.
‘We want to see him again as soon as possible,’ said Shahzad Mahmud, the former president of the Islamic Center. ‘We just want to make sure he goes back to his family,’
One of the hostages was freed early in the incident and the other three fled to safety shortly before it ended.
Dramatic footage revealed the moment two hostages ran out of the temple followed by Akram who chased them with a gun before quickly retreating back inside and closing the door after spotting the nearby SWAT team. Dozens of agents then breach the synagogue as gunshots can be heard.
FBI special agent Matt Desarno said the agency’s Hostage Rescue Team, who were flown in from Quantico in Virginia, entered the synagogue at around 9pm local time, freed the hostages and killed the suspect.
‘There is no question that this was a traumatic experience,’ Cytron-Walker said in a statement last night. ‘We are resilient and we will recover.’
Rabbi Cytron-Walker in his statement credited his congregation’s previous security training from the FBI and others with their survival from a harrowing ordeal.
Armored vehicles were been seen in the area around the synagogue as the attack unfolded on Saturday
Emergency response vehicles and around 200 local and Federal police attended the site while the four hostages were still inside
The four hostages were held inside the synagogue (pictured in 2020) by British gunman Malik Akram from Blackburn
‘In the last hour of our hostage crisis, the gunman became increasingly belligerent and threatening,’ the rabbi said.
‘Without the instruction we received, we would not have been prepared to act and flee when the situation presented itself.’
During a visit to a Philadelphia food bank, U.S President Joe Biden today described Akram’s actions as an ‘act of terror’, adding that there was not yet sufficient information as to why the gunman had specifically targeted a synagogue.
Biden later added that it is understood that Akram purchased the weapons used during the stand-off ‘on the street’ and spent his first night in the US ‘in a homeless shelter’.
‘He purchased them when he landed and it turns out there apparently were no bombs that we know of. … Apparently he spent the first night in a homeless shelter. I don’t have all the details yet so I’m reluctant to go into much more detail,’ the President added.
‘I don’t think there is sufficient information to know about why he targeted that synagogue, why he insisted on the release of someone who’s been in prison for over 10 years, why he was engaged, why he was using anti-Semitic and anti-Israel comments’.
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss took to Twitter to condemn the ‘appalling act of terrorism and anti-semitism in Texas’. Ms Truss added: ‘We stand with US in defending the rights and freedoms of our citizens against those who spread hate.’
Assistant Chief Constable Dominic Scally, for Counter Terror Policing North West, said they are helping with the investigation being led by authorities in the US.
He said: ‘Firstly, our thoughts remain with everyone affected by the terrible events that took place in Texas on 15 January.
‘We can confirm that the suspect, who is deceased, is 44-year-old Malik Faisal Akram, originally from the Blackburn area of Lancashire.
‘I can also confirm that Counter Terror Policing North West is assisting with the investigation being led by the US authorities.
‘Police forces in the region will continue to liaise with their local communities, including the Jewish community, and will put in place any necessary measures to provide reassurance to them.’
Following the arrests, the force added: ‘Two teenagers were detained in South Manchester this evening. They remain in custody.’
Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker (right) was one of four being held hostage by Akram, who claimed to be the brother of convicted terrorist Aafia Siddiqui (left) known as Lady Al Qaeda
Armored vehicles were at the scene where the assailant claimed to have bombs as the FBI attempted to diffuse the situation
Law enforcement also gathered at the Colleyville Elementary School to help evacuate local residents
Local and federal authorities worked together and managed to free all four hostages safely
FBI special agent Matthew DeSarno told reporters in Colleyville after the standoff that the investigation would ‘have global reach.’
He said the suspect’s demands were ‘focused on one issue that was not specifically threatening to the Jewish community.’
Britain’s ambassador to Washington confirmed that British authorities were ‘providing our full support to Texas and US law enforcement agencies.’
The Muslim man can be heard saying the live stream (pictured) that he was ‘going to die’ repeatedly on a livestream of the incident
Aafia, now 49, was jailed for 86 years after being arrested in Afghanistan in 2008 for the attempted murder of a US army captain.
The Pakistani-born neuroscientist was found with two kilos of poison sodium cyanide and plans for chemical attacks on New York’s Brooklyn Bridge and the Empire State Building.
She was handed to the Americans and convicted of attempted murder two years later in a US court.
Her attorney, Marwa Elbially, told CNN that her client has no involvement in the hostage situation.
‘She does not want any violence perpetrated against any human being, especially in her name,’ Elbially said.
‘It obviously has nothing to do with Dr. Siddiqui or her family.’
Jonh Floyd, of the Houston branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, also confirmed Aafia’s family was not involved in the current hostage situation, and that they condemn the suspect’s actions.
‘We want the hostage-taker to know that Dr. Aafia Siddiqui and her family strongly condemn this act and do not stand by you,’ Floyd wrote in a statement directed at the hostage taker.
‘We want the assailant to know that his actions are wicked and directly undermine those of us who are seeking justice for Dr. Aafia.’
Aafia’s hatred for the US was so strong that during her interrogation after her arrest she grabbed a rifle from one of her guards and shot at them shouting: ‘Death to Americans.’
She came to the US in 1991 and won a partial scholarship to MIT, where she was a biology major.
The SWAT team was on standby as the FBI spoke with the suspect and investigated his background
Members of the Islamic Center of Southlake came out to show support for their friend, Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, who they have worked with for years to help unite the faithful in the Dallas-Fort Worth area
Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, pictured with wife Adena Cytron-Walker, was described as a much-respected figure in the community
The Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett Tweeted he was also monitoring the situation as it unfolded on Saturday
Siddiqui was sent by her neurosurgeon father from Pakistan to study in the U.S. on her own and won a partial scholarship to study at the prestigious Cambridge school.
She arrived there in 1991 having been living with her brother in Texas for a year where she studied at the University of Houston and gave regular speeches on Islam.
During one she told the crowd: ‘The hijab is not a restriction. It allows a woman to be judged by her content, not by her packaging, by what is written on the pages, not the pretty artwork on the cover’
In 1993, she wanted to do ‘something to help our Muslim brothers and sisters’ even if it meant breaking the law.
The mother of three was radicalized after the 9/11 terror attacks, divorcing her husband and moving back to Pakistan, where she remarried Ammar Al-Baluchi, the nephew of 9/11 architect Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.
What happened in Pakistan before her arrest is unclear and even during her U.S. trial judge Richard Berman said he did not know what she was doing.
But even now such is her importance as a symbol of defiance to the West that Islamic State fighters publicly stated they wanted to swap her for James Foley, the American photojournalist they executed earlier this year.
She is serving an 86-year sentence at the Federal Medical Center, Carswell in Fort Worth, about 25 miles from the hostage site at the Texas temple.
During her trial, Aafia demanded that every jury member get DNA tested to see if they were Jewish.
‘I have a feeling everyone here is them [Jews], subject [them] to genetic testing… They should be excluded if you want to be fair,’ she told a federal judge in 2010.
Congregation Beth Israel is a Reform Jewish synagogue in the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area, which has about 70,000 Jewish people, one of the largest communities in the state.
Who is Aafia Siddiqui, the ‘Lady Al Qaeda’ terrorist who planned chemical attacks on Empire State Building and Brooklyn Bridge
Siddiqui, who was a biology major at MIT, said in 1993 that she wanted to do ‘something to help our Muslim brothers and sisters’ even if it meant breaking the law.
She jumped to her feet and ‘raised her skinny little wrists in the air’ in a display of defiance that shocked her friends.
An in-depth account of her journey to infamy also reveals that she took a National Rifle Association shooting class and persuaded other Muslims to learn how to fire a gun.
Siddiqui lied to her husband and after they wed over the phone he was stunned to discover she was just marrying him for his family’s connections to better enable her to wage jihad.
Two handout photos of terror suspect Aafia Siddiqui released by the FBI in May of 2004
Siddiqui, a mother-of-three, eventually got her twisted wish and became the most wanted woman in the world by the FBI.
She was handed to the Americans and convicted of attempted murder in a U.S. court in 2010.
But her hatred for the U.S. was so strong that during her interrogation she grabbed a rifle from one of her guards and shot at them shouting: ‘Death to Americans’.
A 2014 Boston Globe profile of Siddiqui’s time in Boston sought to answer what happened during her 11 years as a student in the U.S.
Something happened to radicalize an intelligent and devout woman who not only graduated from MIT but also got a doctorate in neuroscience from Brandeis University.
At MIT she made few friends and was remembered as intelligent, driven and a regular at the Prospect Street mosque, which would later be attended by alleged Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev.
She wore long sleeves and the hijab and was seen as ‘very sweet’ for a former roommate at her all-female dorm.
The focus of her life was the Muslim Student Association but things appear to have changed with the start of the Bosnian War, which seems to have been the beginning of her radicalization.
Siddiqui became involved with the Al-Kifah Refugee Centre, a Brooklyn-based organization which is thought to have been Al Qaeda’s focus of operations in the US.
Terrorism expert Evan Kohlmann said: ‘Aafia was from a prominent family with connections and a sympathy for jihad. She was just what they needed.’
She was arrested in Afghanistan in 2008 by local forces who found her with two kilos of poison sodium cyanide and plans for chemical attacks on New York’s Brooklyn Bridge and the Empire State Building
In 1993 as she and some friends debated how to raise money for Muslims being killed during the Bosnian War, one of them joked that they didn’t want to go on the FBI’s Most Wanted List.
Waqas Jilani, then a graduate student at Clark University, said: ‘She raised her skinny little wrists in the air and said: ‘I’d be proud to be on the Most Wanted list because it would mean I’m doing something to help our Muslim brothers and sisters’
‘She said we should all be proud to be on that list’.
Jilani added that Siddiqui said in her speeches that Muslims should ‘get training and go overseas and fight’.
He said: ‘We were all laughing like, ‘Uh-oh, Aafia’s got a gun!’
‘Part of it was because she was such a bad shot, but also because she was always mouthing off about the U.S. and the FBI being so bad and all.’
Siddiqui married Mohammed Amjad Khan, the son of a wealthy Pakistani family, in a ceremony carried out over the phone before he flew to Boston.
But upon arrival he discovered that far from being the quiet religious woman he had been promised, her life was very different.
He said: ‘I discovered that the well-being of our nascent family unit was not her prime goal in life. Instead, it was to gain prominence in Muslim circles.’
Khan described to the Boston Globe how she regularly watched videos of Osama bin Laden, spent weekends at terror training camps in New Hampshire with activists from Al-Kifah and begged him to quit his medical job so he could join her.
In the end he stopped bringing work colleagues home because she would ‘only to talk about them converting to Islam’.
Khan said: ‘Invariably this would lead to unpleasantness, so I decided to keep my work separate….
‘…By now, all her focus had shifted to jihad against America, instead of preaching to Americans so that they all become Muslims and America becomes a Muslim land’.
The breaking point was the September 11 2001 attacks after which Siddiqui, who was by now dressing in all black, insisted they return to Pakistan and got a divorce.
American officials suspect she remarried Ammar Al-Baluchi, the nephew of 9/11 architect Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, though her family deny this.
Siddiqui and her children disappeared in Karachi, Pakistan in 2003 shortly after Mohammed was arrested.
The following year she was named by FBI director Robert Mueller as one of the seven most wanted Al Qaeda operatives, and the only woman.