Texas synagogue hostage-taker identified by FBI as British national
COLLEYVILLE, Texas - A man who took four people hostage inside a North Texas synagogue Saturday has been identified by authorities.
The FBI has identified the man as 44-year-old British national Malik Faisal Akram, who was killed after an FBI SWAT team entered the synagogue Saturday night. Authorities have not said who shot Akram, according to the Associated Press.
The Colleyville Police Department (CPD) shared on Twitter Saturday afternoon that SWAT operations were being conducted at the address of Congregation Beth Israel in the 6100 block of Pleasant Run Road.
The AP reported that at least four hostages were believed to be inside the synagogue, one of them the synagogue's rabbi, according to two law enforcement officials.
CPD says one hostage was released uninjured shortly after 5 p.m. Saturday. He was expected to be reunited with his family soon and did not require medical attention, says the AP.
The AP also says that the man was heard demanding the release of Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist suspected of having ties to al-Qaeda, one of the law enforcement officials said. Siddiqui is in federal prison in Texas.
Siddiqui was sentenced in 2010 to 86 years in prison on charges that she assaulted and shot at U.S. Army officers after being detained in Afghanistan two years earlier. The punishment sparked outrage in Pakistan among political leaders and her supporters, who viewed her as victimized by the American criminal justice system, says the AP.
Multiple people heard the hostage-taker refer to Siddiqui as his "sister" on the livestream, but Faizan Syed, the executive director of Council on American-Islamic Relations in Dallas Fort-Worth Texas, told The Associated Press that Siddiqui's brother, Mohammad Siddiqui, was not involved. Syed said CAIR's support and prayers were with the people being held in the synagogue, according to the AP.
Investigators have not positively identified the man in the synagogue, says the AP, and that the law enforcement officials cautioned that the information was based on a preliminary investigation as the situation was still rapidly developing.
FBI Dallas spokeswoman Katie Chaumont said an FBI SWAT team was also at the scene and that crisis negotiators had been communicating with someone inside the synagogue, says the AP. However, Chaumont was unable to say whether the person was armed, and she declined to describe what the person had said to authorities, citing operational sensitivity.
Police were first called to the synagogue around 11 a.m. and people were evacuated from the surrounding neighborhood soon after that, Chaumont said. There have been no reported injuries and authorities said they weren't certain how many people were in the synagogue.
"It's an evolving situation, and we have a lot of law enforcement personnel on scene," Chaumont said.
Law enforcement has shut down access to the roads surrounding the synagogue as of Saturday afternoon.
The services were being livestreamed on the synagogue's Facebook page for a time. Before the livestream was disabled, a man could be heard repeatedly saying "I will die," according to FOX News. "I'm going to die at the end of this, alright?. Are you listening? I am going to die. Okay? So don't cry for me."
Earlier, in the livestream, the man, who was not visible, could be heard in what appeared to be a discussion with negotiators about "releasing" the people inside.
Texas resident Victoria Francis told the AP that she watched about an hour of the livestream before it cut out. She said she heard the man rant against America and claim he had a bomb. "He was just all over the map. He was pretty irritated and the more irritated he got, he'd make more threats, like `I'm the guy with the bomb. If you make a mistake, this is all on you.' And he'd laugh at that," she said to the AP. "He was clearly in extreme distress."
Francis said she has tuned in after she read about the hostage situation and that it sounded like the man was talking to the police department on the phone, with the rabbi and another person trying to help with the negotiations. When the livestream cut out, the man was getting pretty irate, Francis said.
This situation has garnered national and international attention, with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett taking to Twitter to say he is monitoring and praying for the hostages and rescuers.
Israel's consul general in Houston is on her way to the scene of the incident, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said in a statement, adding that Israeli officials "are in close contact with American law enforcement agencies," according to the AP.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations, the nation's largest Muslim advocacy group, condemned the attack Saturday, says the AP.
"This latest antisemitic attack at a house of worship is an unacceptable act of evil," CAIR National Deputy Director Edward Ahmed Mitchell said in a statement. "We stand in solidarity with the Jewish community, and we pray that law enforcement authorities are able to swiftly and safely free the hostages. No cause can justify or excuse this crime."
U.S. Rep Mark Veasey (D-Fort Worth) shared on Twitter that he "[knows] the Rabbi and his wife Adena very well" and is also monitoring the situation unfolding. Veasey's district in North Texas is just south of Colleyville.
Press Secretary Jen Psaki shared that President Joe Biden is aware of what's happening in Colleyville and that "senior members of the national security team are also in touch with federal law enforcement leadership."
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott also shared a statement Saturday evening saying:
"The Texas Department of Public Safety is working closely with the Federal Bureau of Investigation on the hostage situation at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville. The State of Texas is ready to provide additional assistance as requested and we will continue to monitor the situation. I ask Texans to join Cecilia and me as we pray for the safety of the congregants."
FOX 4 Dallas and the Associated Press contributed to this report.
This story is developing. Check back for updates.
Colleyville SWAT operation: People asked to avoid area near Congregation Beth Israel
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