EXCLUSIVE ‘You get picked up in the US for walking on cracks in a pavement!’ Security services are accused of ‘intelligence failure’ after British synagogue siege terrorist, 44, evaded officials despite criminal convictions and 9/11 rant
- FBI identifies Texas synagogue shooter as 44-year-old Malik Faisal Akram, who is originally from Blackburn
- He arrived in NYC on January 2 before spending a week at a Dallas homeless shelter in the week before attack
- His brother, Gulbar, liaised with suspect in FBI incident room, blamed mental health issues for Faisal’s actions
- Sibling also revealed Akram had a long criminal record and asked how he was able to enter the United States
- Two teenagers from Manchester have been arrested in connection with incident and remain in custody
- US President Joe Biden condemned Akram’s actions as an ‘act of terror’ during a PR event in Philadelphia
- All four hostages have been released after the terrorist was shot and police stormed the Texas synagogue
- Akram had demanded the release of ‘Lady Al Qaeda’ Aafia Siddiqui, so they could die together in siege
What are the rules on entering America if you have criminal record?
The UK is part of the Visa Waiver Program, meaning travellers can enter the US for business or tourism for stays of up to 90 days without a visa.
Instead, tourists must fill out an Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) form which includes questions on an applicant’s criminal past.
What are criminal history questions on the ESTA form?
- Questions on the form cover terrorist affiliation, travel history and drug use
- One question states: Have you ever been arrested or convicted for a crime that resulted in serious damage to property, or serious harm to another person or government authority?
- These constitute ‘moral turpitude’ offences and include murder, rape, assault, burglary, theft, fraud and bribery
- Anyone who has committed a crime of moral turpitude will not be granted entry to the US
- The only exceptions are if the offence was committed under the age of 18 and five years have elapsed since the date of conviction or release, or the maximum possible sentence for the crime was 12 months and six months were served
- Anyone who has two or more offences, regardless of whether they were crimes of moral turpitude, in which the total sentences exceeded five years , will also be barred entry to the US
Can an applicant lie on the form?
- The ESTA website claims checks will be carried out to see if an applicant has any undisclosed criminal convictions on file
- But according to social justice charity Nacro, the US authorities do not have access to criminal records held on the UK’s Police National Computer
- If authorities have concerns about a traveller, they can request information from the Home Office, although this is said to be very rare
- This means it could be possible to lie on the form and enter the country
- Charity Unlock, which helps people with previous convictions, says people who lie on the ESTA are ‘generally able to travel with no difficulties’, but it is a risk as it is a criminal offence
Travellers can instead apply for a visa but this can be a long and expensive process, involving an interview at the US embassy.
The security services were today accused of a serious ‘intelligence failure’ after a British Islamist was able to travel to the US to lay siege to a synagogue despite his significant criminal convictions and known radical views.
As police in the US and UK scramble to discover if he was part of a wider terror cell, it has emerged that Malik Faisal Akram, 44, from Blackburn, Lancashire, was branded a ‘menace’ for raving about the attack on the World Trade Centre in 2001.
The terror suspect was given a rare Exclusion Order at Blackburn’s magistrates’ court – the first in 25 years – for abusing staff about 9/11 on the day after the attack that claimed more than 2,750 lives.
The incident 20 years ago raises questions about whether he was known to the security services on either side of the Atlantic – and how he managed to get into the United States two weeks ago with a significant criminal record.
Today, Tory MP Bob Seely told MailOnline there seemed to have been a ‘dreadful’ error at the UK and US borders caused by an ‘intelligence failure’ and it needed to be looked at.
‘This is clearly a failure of intelligence sharing. It is absolutely dreadful that he has been allowed to go to the States and hurt people. Clearly something has gone wrong somewhere,’ he said.
Another senior MP with knowledge of the security services voiced surprise that the background had not been picked up. ‘How did he get into the US?’ they said. ‘You get picked up for walking on the cracks in the pavement.’
Yesterday, his brother, Gulbar, demanded how he was allowed into America despite a long criminal record. He said Malik was mentally ill and was mourning the death of his brother three months ago, reportedly from Covid.
The extent of his criminal record is not yet clear, but it may be that some of his offences may have been too petty or too old to stop him being turned away from the United States’ border.
Malik Faisal Akram landed at New York’s JFK Airport on January 2. The address he gave on his arrival papers appears to be the same as the Queens Hotel in New York City, which offers basic accommodation for $80-a-night.
He spent the nights between January 6 and January 13 at a Christian charity’s homeless hostel in Dallas, managing to buy a gun ‘on the street’ nearby.
Two days later he laid siege to the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue in Colleyville, before being shot dead by a SWAT team on Saturday night. There were no other casualties.
As Akram’s family said the FBI landed in the UK, the Prime Minister’s spokesman today called the Texas synagogue attack ‘a terrible and anti-Semitic act of terrorism’. President Joe Biden said the ten-hour siege was an ‘act of terror’.
Home Secretary Priti Patel said she had spoken to her US counterpart Alejandro Mayorkas and offered ‘the full support’ of the UK police and security services in the investigation.
Last night two teenagers, who have not been named, were arrested by British counter-terrorism officers in south Manchester and remain in custody.
Akram’s family had been working with police in Texas to convince him to give himself up. His younger sibling Gulbar said he and other relatives were called into Greenbank police station in Blackburn to speak with his older brother, who was armed and claimed to be carrying a bomb.
In a live Facebook feed of the service he raided he was heard shouting at the congregation in a strong northern British accent: ‘If anyone tries to enter this building – everyone will die’. He added: ‘I’m gunned up. I’m ammo-ed up. Guess what, I will die. I am going to die, so don’t cry for me’ before hurling anti-Semitic insults.
Speaking to FBI agents, he had also demanded the release of jailed female terrorist Aafia Siddiqu – known as Lady Al Qaeda for attempting to kill US military personnel in Afghanistan – and that she be brought to the synagogue so they could both ‘die together’.
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.
After agreeing to release one of his hostages, two more hostages were seen running out of a side door, chased by Akram waving a handgun. Soon afterwards a FBI rescue team stormed the building and Akram later died in a hail of bullets at around 10pm on Saturday night.
It is also possible that his 9/11 rants and other crimes may not have been picked up if he lied about not being a criminal because the US authorities do not routinely have access to Britain’s criminal record information database.
As FBI agents landed in the UK to work with British police, it also emerged today:
- Two teenagers, both believed to be under 16, are being questioned by UK counter-terrorism police after being arrested in Manchester;
- The Texas synagogue terrorist had asked negotiator to bring Aafia Siddiqu – known as Lady Al Qaeda – and that she be brought to the synagogue so they could both ‘die together’. She is in a jail 25 miles away;
- British extremist Anjem Choudary has been campaigning online for Siddiqui’s release;
- Akram’s links to Pakistan are also being probed, having been a regular visitor to the country where his father was born. He was reportedly a supporter of the conservative Tablighi Jamaat group, set up to ‘purify’ Islam. It denies being a terror group – but members are banned from Saudi after the organisation was branded ‘one of the gates of terrorism’ by the Gulf state.
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
Malik Faisal Akram, who was known as Faisal Akram, had ranted that he wished he had died in the 9/11 terror attacks. He was a regular visitor to Pakistan and reportedly a member of the Tablighi Jamaat group, set up to ‘purify’ Islam
Police are piecing together the terrorist’s final movements after arriving at JFK airport by January 2 before staying in a homeless hostel run by a Christian charity before launching the attack on January 15
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
His younger sibling Gulbar said in a statement he and other relatives were called into Greenbank police station in Blackburn to speak with his older brother but said: ’There was nothing we could have said to him or done that would have convinced him to surrender’
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 took place at the Congregation Beth Israel, in Colleyville, just 27 miles from Dallas
Countdown to synagogue siege: British terrorist, 44, stayed in Christian homeless shelter and bought ‘guns on street’ after flying to NYC weeks before hostage attack
The Blackburn terrorist shot dead having laid siege to a Texas synagogue had spent the week before the attack in a Christian homeless shelter and bought his gun ‘off the street’ nearby, it was revealed today.
Malik Faisal Akram, 44, from Lancashire, staged a ten-hour attack near Dallas and held the rabbi and three others hostage while demanding the release of a convicted terrorist known as Lady Al Qaeda so they could die together.
Akram, is understood to have landed in New York on January 2, likely on a flight from Manchester.
After being granted entry to the US, despite having a criminal record, the British Muslim crossed the country, likely by internal flight, next appearing at a Texan Christian charity asking for a bed for the night from January 6.
He stayed at the Union Gospel Mission in Dallas in the week before the terror attack, and was able to buy a handgun ‘off the street’, according to US President Joe Biden.
The shelter’s CEO Bruce Butler told CNN that staff saw him ‘come and go’ – but he never mentioned religion or his plans to attack the synagogue.
Mr Butler said: ‘We were a way station for him. He had a plan. He was very quiet’, adding he left for the final time on January 13.
Police are trying to piece together what he did in the final 48 hours before launching the attack around 22 miles away from Union Gospel Mission on the morning of Saturday, January 15.
He entered the synagogue around 11am on Saturday morning as a service was live-streamed online due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
He spewed anti-Semitic abuse and demanded the release of convicted terrorist Aafia Siddiqu, whom he referred to as his ‘sister’.
The location of the attack is significant because she is being held in a jail about 20 miles from Colleyville, at FMC Carswell in Fort Worth.
After agreeing to release one of his hostages, two more hostages were seen running out of a side door, chased by Akram waving a handgun. He saw armed police inside and ran back in. Soon afterwards a FBI rescue team stormed the building – firing bullets and throwing stun grenades. Akram died in a hail of bullets at around 10pm on Saturday night.
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’.
Boris Johnson ‘absolutely stands in solidarity with the Jewish community, both in the UK and indeed in Texas’ after the hostage-taking incident in a US synagogue.
Malik Faisal Akram, originally from Blackburn in Lancashire, was shot dead when the FBI entered the building in Texas on Saturday night.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: ‘This was a terrible and anti-Semitic act of terrorism.
‘The Prime Minister’s thoughts are with the Jewish community both in Texas and around the world and we stand with our American friends against those who seek to spread hate and fear around the world.
‘British authorities continue to provide full support to Texas and the US law enforcement agencies.’
The terrorist was banned from Blackburn Magistrates’ Court in September 2001 and described as a ‘menace’ after officials complained that he was persistently causing trouble inside Blackburn magistrates court even when he was not appearing before the bench.
The ban followed a series of incidents which culminated with Akram abusing court ushers over the New York attacks.
Under the order, Akram was warned that if he entered the court complex, he could be detained under the Contempt of Court Act and face a possible prison sentence or £2,500 fine.
The rare Exclusion Order was made against him under Section 12 of the Contempt of Court Act and had only ever been used once before at Blackburn Magistrates’ Court.
A letter sent to Akram, known by his middle name Faisal, confirming the ban stated: ‘Once again you were threatening and abusive towards court staff. In a clear reference to the terrorist attack on New York the previous day you said on more than one occasion to one of my court ushers ‘you should have been on the f***ing plane.’.
Akram was reported as saying in a local newspaper at the time: ‘I’m innocent. This is nothing to do with me because I didn’t say that. People at the court have just got it in for me because they don’t like me.’ Mr Wells described Akram as a ‘menace’ who had a long history of abusing court staff.
Hate preacher Anjem Choudary called for ‘Lady Al Qaeda’ to be freed ‘physically or by ransom’ months before British terrorist, 44, lay siege to synagogue demanding her release
Hate preacher Anjem Choudhary urged his supporters to free a notorious Islamist fanatic dubbed ‘Lady Al Qaeda’ months before a British terrorist demanded her release while besieging a Texas synagogue on Saturday.
Choudhary called on his supporters to release Aafia Siddiqui ‘physically or by ransom’ in a Telegram post in September.
The 54-year-old has been able to openly carry out social media campaigns again after licence conditions barring him from public speaking expired in 2021, three years after he was released from prison following a conviction for supporting ISIS.
‘The obligation upon us is to either free her physically or to ransom her or to exchange her,’ Choudary wrote on his Telegram channel, the Washington Post reported.
‘However, until such time as we can fulfill one of these obligations the minimum that we can do is to use all that we have to raise awareness about her case, to keep her name in the hearts and in the minds of Muslims.’
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.
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.
‘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.’
President Joe Biden says hostage situation at Texas synagogue was an ‘act of terror’
US President Joe Biden described Akram’s actions as an ‘act of terror’ during a visit to a Philadelphia food bank on Sunday
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.
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.’
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.
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.
‘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’.
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.
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
Texas rabbi says he is ‘alive today’ thanks to police training that helped him act when terrorist became ‘belligerent’
Charlie Cytron-Walker was held hostage with three members of his congregation on Saturday
The Texas rabbi who endured a 10-hour kidnapping by a British anti-Semite demanding the release of an al-Qaeda terrorists has credited his active-shooter training for helping him and his followers escape alive.
Charlie Cytron-Walker and three of his congregation were rescued unharmed on Saturday night after their captor Mailk Faisal Akram, 44, was shot and killed by police.
The rabbi, who has presided over the 140-strong congregation since 2006, on Sunday said his training enabled him to deal with the situation.
‘Over the years, my congregation and I have participated in multiple security courses from the Colleyville Police Department, the FBI, the Anti-Defamation League, and Secure Community Network,’ he said.
‘We are alive today because of that education. I encourage all Jewish congregations, religious groups, schools, and others to participate in active-shooter and security courses.
‘In the last hour of our hostage crisis, the gunman became increasingly belligerent and threatening.
‘Without the instruction we received, we would not have been prepared to act and flee when the situation presented itself.’
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.’
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.’
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.
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
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.