Captor becomes “aggressive” at the end of the stalemate – The Denver Post

OLLEYVILLE, Texas – A rabbi who was among four people held hostage at a Texas synagogue on Sunday says their armed captor has become increasingly “aggressive and threatening” by the end of the day. end of a 10-hour stalemate, which ended with an FBI SWAT team plunging into construction and the death of the captor.

Authorities identified the hostage-taker as Malik Faisal Akram, 44, a British national, who was killed Saturday night after the last hostage ran out of Beth Israel Church around 9pm. The FBI said there was no indication anyone else was involved, but it had not provided a possible motive as of Sunday afternoon.

Chaplain Charlie Cytron-Walker credits the security training his suburban Fort Worth congregation received over the years to get him and three other hostages through what he described as traumatic.

“During the final hour of our hostage crisis, the gunman became increasingly belligerent and threatening,” Cytron-Walker said in a statement. “Without the instructions we received, we wouldn’t be prepared to act and run away when the situation came up.”

President Joe Biden called the episode an act of terrorism. Akram can be heard going live on Facebook about the services and demanding the release of Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist suspected of having ties to al-Qaida, who was found guilty of attempting to kill the terrorists. US military officer in Afghanistan.

Speaking to reporters in Philadelphia on Sunday, Biden said Akram allegedly bought weapons on the street.

Federal investigators believe Akram purchased the handgun used in the hostage-taking in a private sale, according to a person familiar with the matter who declined to be named because the investigation is ongoing. Akram arrived in the US at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York about two weeks ago, a law enforcement official said.

Video from Dallas broadcaster WFAA shows people running out the door of the synagogue, and then a man with a gun opening the identical door seconds later before he turns around and closes it. Moments later, several gunshots and then an explosion rang out.

“Rest assured, we are focused,” Biden said. “The Attorney General is focused and made sure we deal with these types of behavior.”

Akram visited the US recently on a tourist visa from the UK, according to a US official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the information was not intended to be made public. London’s Metropolitan Police said in a statement that its counter-terrorism police were in contact with US authorities regarding the incident.

FBI Special Agent Matt DeSarno said the hostage-taker was specifically focused on an issue that was not directly related to the Jewish community. It is unclear why Akram chose the synagogue, although the prison where Saddiqui is serving his sentence is in Fort Worth.

Michael Finfer, president of the congregation, said in a statement “there is a one in one million chance that the gunman has chosen our congregation.”

Authorities declined to say who shot Akram, saying it was still under investigation.

Authorities said police were first called to the synagogue around 11 a.m. and people were evacuated from the vicinity shortly thereafter.

Saturday’s services have been live on the synagogue’s Facebook page for some time. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports that an angry man can sometimes be heard talking about religion during the live stream, which does not indicate what is happening inside the synagogue.

Not long before 2 p.m., the man said, “You have to do something. I don’t want to see this guy die.” After a while, the feed was cut off. A spokesperson for Meta Platforms Inc., the successor to Facebook Inc., later confirmed that Facebook had removed the video.

Akram used his phone during the negotiations to communicate with non-law enforcement officials, according to a law enforcement official who was not authorized to discuss an ongoing investigation. out by name and speak on condition of anonymity.

Many people heard the hostage-taker calling Siddiqui his “sister” on the live stream. But John Floyd, Houston board chair of the Council on American Muslim Relations – the nation’s largest Muslim advocacy group – said Siddiqui’s brother, Mohammad Siddiqui, was not involved.

“We want the attacker to know that his actions were evil and directly undermined those of us who are seeking justice for Dr. Aafia,” said Floyd, who is also a legal counsel for Dr. Mohammad Siddiqui, said.

Victoria Francis, of Texas, said she watched the live stream for about an hour, saying she heard the man speak against America and claim he had a bomb. Biden said there were apparently no explosives, despite the threats.

“He was just everywhere on the map. He’s pretty cranky and the more irritable he gets, the more threats he’ll make, like ‘I’m the bomb man. If you make a mistake, it’s all your fault. ‘ And he would laugh at it,” said Francis. “He is clearly in a state of extreme distress.”

Colleyville, a community of about 26,000 people, is about 15 miles (23 km) northeast of Fort Worth. By Sunday morning, the police encirclement around the synagogue had narrowed to half a block in both directions and FBI agents were able to enter and exit the building. A sign that reads “Love” – ​​with the “o” replaced by the Star of David – has been planted on the neighbor’s lawn.

Arriving outside his home on Sunday, Cytron-Walker declined to talk about the episode. “It was a bit overwhelming as you can imagine. Yesterday wasn’t fun at all,” he told the AP.

Andrew Marc Paley, a rabbi in Dallas who was called to the scene to help the families and hostages after they were released, said Cytron-Walker acted as a calm and safe presence. iron. The first hostage was released shortly after 5pm. That was around the time food was delivered to those inside the synagogue, but Paley said he didn’t know if that was part of the negotiations.

“Actually he seemed a little confused, but I don’t know if it was a shock or just a moment,” Paley said of the first hostage released.

Cytron-Walker says his congregation has received training from local authorities and the Safe Community Network, which was founded in 2004 by a coalition of Jewish organizations and describes itself as a “safety organization.” official safety and security” of the Jewish community in North America. Michael Masters, the organization’s CEO, said the church offered the security training in August and was not aware of Akram before.

The standoff prompted authorities to tighten security elsewhere, including in New York City, where police said they were increasing their presence “at important Jewish facilities” with the abundant caution.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said on Twitter that “the event is a stark reminder that anti-Semitism still exists and we must continue to fight it worldwide.”

Tucker reporting from Washington, DC Also contributing to this reporter are Associated Press writers Paul J. Weber and Acacia Coronado of Austin; Michael Balsamo in Washington; Colleen Long in Philadelphia; Elliot Spagat in San Diego; Jennifer McDermott of Providence, Rhode Island; Michael R. Sisak in New York; Holly Meyer of Nashville, Tenn.; and Isaac Scharf in Jerusalem. Captor becomes “aggressive” at the end of the stalemate – The Denver Post

Huynh Nguyen

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