Synagogue Terrorist Was the “Neighbor from Hell” in UK

Gun Rights

Moment synagogue terrorist was arrested outside his Blackburn home in 2018 after refusing to pay his landlord rent – as it’s revealed he was dropped from UK terror watchlist months before siege

  • Malik Faisal Akram, 44, was shot dead in Texas on Saturday night after taking four people and a Rabbi hostage
  • In 2018 he was arrested outside his Blackburn home and bundled into a police van after refusing to pay rent 
  • Police in the UK came looking for him around the time he jetted to the US but he still was able to fly over  
  • Akram had demanded the release of ‘Lady Al Qaeda’ Aafia Siddiqui, so they could die together in siege 

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Blackburn terrorist was on call with his children when he was shot dead by a SWAT team, his family claims

Father-of-six Malik Faisal Akram was speaking to his children when he was gunned down in a Texan synagogue, it was claimed today. 

His younger sibling Gulbar has said they are now trying to get his body home for a funeral – but that he will have been riddled with bullets.

Gulbar told Sky News said his brother was on the phone with his children when he was shot: ‘Why did they have to kill him? They didn’t need to do that’. Many relatives had been called into a Blackburn police station to convince him to give himself up, but they were unable to.  

Gulbar said: ‘When we bring my brother’s body back, I’m expecting there to be 10 or 12 gunshot wounds in him’, adding he ‘should never have been able to get through immigration. Someone helped him. He shouldn’t have been able to board a plane without any stringent checks’.

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This is the moment Synagogue terrorist Malik Faisal Akram is arrested outside his Blackburn home and bundled into a police van after refusing to pay his landlord any rent.

The 44-year-old terrorist from the Lancashire town, who was shot dead in Texas on Saturday night after taking four people and a Rabbi hostage in a 10-hour siege, was held by officers where he lived in a quiet cul-de-sac because he wouldn’t let bailiffs into the property where he lived with his wife and six children.

Residents have described career criminal Akram as the ‘neighbour from hell’ who made their lives a misery with his anti-social and threatening behaviour before he is believed to have left 18 months ago and moved to Manchester.

MailOnline can reveal that police visited Akram’s former home twice in the last two months looking for the terrorist.

Just before Christmas Lancashire Police called at the house looking for him, but didn’t disclose why. They returned earlier this month looking for Malik’s teenage son, amid concerns for his whereabouts.

The image of Akram being arrested in 2018 came after he hurled abuse at workmen who were trying to install new gas and electricity meters inside the house and stopped them from getting in.

He had failed to pay his rent and reportedly caused £10,000 worth of damage when he was finally evicted.

A neighbour who asked not to be named told MailOnline: ‘He only lived here for a few months but he caused so many problems.

‘That photo was taken in November 2018 and he had refused to let bailiffs and workmen who were due to install new gas and electricity meters into the property.

‘He was abusive and shouting at them in the street so the police were called.

‘Rather than deterring him, he refused to budge and was continuing his outburst at police so they put him in handcuffs and led him away. He wasn’t a very nice person. He wouldn’t engage with anyone in the street unless he was shouting at them.

Synagogue terrorist Malik Faisal Akram is arrested outside his Blackburn home and bundled into a police van in 2018

Synagogue terrorist Malik Faisal Akram is arrested outside his Blackburn home and bundled into a police van in 2018

Akram was arrested in Blackburn in 2018 after refusing to pay his landlord any rent. Police vans are pictured at the scene

Akram was arrested in Blackburn in 2018 after refusing to pay his landlord any rent. Police vans are pictured at the scene

Residents have described Akram as the 'neighbour from hell' who made their lives a misery from his home in Blackburn

Residents have described Akram as the ‘neighbour from hell’ who made their lives a misery from his home in Blackburn

Faiisal Akram, 44, from Blackburn who was the gunman in the hostage situation at a Texas and able to enter the US despite being a career criminal and a religious extremist who was a regular at protests to free Muslim prisoners

Faiisal Akram, 44, from Blackburn who was the gunman in the hostage situation at a Texas and able to enter the US despite being a career criminal and a religious extremist who was a regular at protests to free Muslim prisoners

Faiisal Akram, 44, (pictured) from Blackburn who was the gunman in the hostage situation at a Texas and able to enter the US despite being a career criminal and a religious extremist who was a regular at protests to free Muslim prisoners

‘On one occasion he’d parked his car across one of his neighbour’s driveways blocking them in. The lady went over and knocked on his door and asked him politely if he could move his car but he started to yell and swear at her. He refused to move the car and told her that she could not tell him what to do because she was a woman.

‘He had a very sexist way of behaving. He was very extreme in his religious views and did not believe women and men were equal. There was another similar row over parking with another neighbour which saw them both square up to each other and nearly turn violent.

‘One neighbour wanted to move because he and his family were really disruptive. And this cul-de-sac is normally very peaceful with everyone else getting on with each other. He left at some point late in 2018 or early 2019, we believe they went to Manchester. It was a relief when they did finally go. He was the neighbour from hell.

‘But it was still a huge surprise to see that he was the one who had laid siege to a synagogue in America and had been shot dead by the authorities.’

The former landlord of the house told MailOnline that Akram had ripped up the carpet, destroyed furniture and damaged the fridge freezer as well as refusing to pay the rent.

He said: ‘He liked to pass himself off as a good Muslim but he wasn’t at all, he behaved despicably.’

Akram, who MailOnline revealed yesterday was banned from Blackburn Magistrates Court in 2001 for ranting about the 9/11 terror attacks, has a criminal record dating back more than 25-years.

He found himself in Borstal as a teenager before going to an adult prison in 1996, aged 19, for violent disorder after attacking a cousin with a baseball bat.

A year later he was back in prison again, this time for the destruction of property, and then in 1999 for harassment. He is believed to have taken to selling drugs and was then in prison again in 2012 for stealing £5,000 in cash and phones. But the case was later stopped

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

One of the hostages at the Congregation Beth Israel in, Colleyville, Texas

It was that stint in HMP Liverpool, that began his path to religious extremism and where he was reported by the prison Imam for ‘concerning and disruptive behaviour’ at Friday prayers.

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 

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, 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 

The British terrorist who held up a synagogue posing as a homeless man also conned US border force by claiming he was staying at a down at heel hotel on the New York street made famous by Eddie Murphy’s movie classic Coming to America, it was revealed today.

Malik Faisal Akram, 44, from Blackburn, Lancashire, told US Immigration officers he was checking in at an address on Queens Boulevard but never turned up, according to FBI sources.

The busy road, connecting Queens with Manhattan, was at the heart of Murphy’s 1988 hit movie, where he played Akeem Joffer, the crown prince of the African nation of Zamunda who was hiding from his father the King in New York to experience a normal life by working in a fast food joint, where he finds love with the owner’s daughter.

Akram arrived at New York’s JFK Airport on or around January 2 having boarded a plane from Britain despite a criminal record dating back more than 25 years and links to extremist Islamist groups and causes.

He reportedly told passport control, and wrote on forms, that he would be staying in a hotel in Queens Boulevard. The address he gave on his arrival papers appears to be the same as the Queens Hotel, which offers basic accommodation for $80-a-night. The receptionist said FBI agents had reviewed its CCTV but found nothing useful. 

Instead he is believed to have travelled from the airport to the New York Port Authority bus terminal and jumped on a coach to Dallas. The 39-hour trip goes via the capital Washington DC, Richmond in Virginia before crossing Tennessee, Arkansas and finally into Texas. 

He then posed as a homeless person and 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’ from January 6 – but he never mentioned religion or his plans to attack the synagogue.  One source claimed today that he was dropped off at one by ‘someone he appeared to know’.

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 at the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue in Colleyville, around 22 miles away on the morning of Saturday, January 15. He posed as a homeless person needed shelter before pulling out his gun. 

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 outside 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

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Since his release from prison, he has moved around Blackburn to several different rented homes.

Before moving to his last known Blackburn address, Akram and his family lived in a red-brick terraced house opposite a park and woodland.

His neighbour there, retired engineer David Lishman, 72, told today how Akram leant in and growled ‘I’ll kill you’ during a trivial row four years ago.

Mr Lishman said: ‘He parked his car in the alley behind our houses and was blocking a friend of mine from getting his van down to my garden gate and collecting some rubbish.

‘He refused to move the car when I knocked on his door and the argument on his doorstep became more and more heated until he leant in and through gritted teeth said ‘I’ll kill you’

‘My reaction was ‘you bloody won’t, if you don’t move your car you’ll get a right hander!’

‘When he could see he couldn’t intimidate me, he eventually got his car, moved it and then went inside without uttering another word.’

It emerged today that Akram had also been previously known to MI5.

He was the subject of an investigation in late 2020 but by the time he flew to America was no longer classified a risk.

However, concerns have now been raised as to how Akram was able to enter the U.S, especially given he had a criminal record.

His brother, Gulbar Akram, said he was mentally ill and mourning the death of his brother three months ago, reportedly from Covid, but has demanded to know how he got his visa.

He said: ‘How did he get into America? How did he land at JFK [in New York] airport and not get stopped?’

Meanwhile it was revealed today that Malik Faisal Akram was being watched by British spies in the months before his 10-hour siege in Texas because of his links to extremism – but was let off the hook.

The Blackburn-born father-of six, a career criminal and reputedly a member of a ultra-conservative Islamist sect, was put under surveillance at the end of 2020 for four weeks. 

But a security source said MI5 closed the case having decided that he ‘didn’t present a terrorist threat at that time’. He was not kept on the terror ‘watchlist’ that would prevent him flying to America, which security experts have said was a big mistake given the surveillance he had been under.

The latest blunder emerged as Britain and the US were today accused of ‘dropping the ball’ after letting him fly to New York despite police already hunting for him and his links to a religious sect banned in Saudi Arabia for attempts to ‘purify Islam’.

He was also fixated with demanding the release of Lady al-Qaeda Aafia Siddiqui, a convicted terrorist in a Texan jail who is a cause célèbre for terror groups around the world. 

Akram’s brother has claimed that he believes ‘someone helped him’ through immigration because he had been in and out of prison since he was a juvenile.

The Blackburn terrorist, 44, was shot dead in Texas on Saturday night after a 10-hour siege at the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue in Colleyville where he took a rabbi and three of his congregation hostage with a handgun and claiming to be carrying a suicide bomb.

Akram became known to counter-terrorism police after becoming ‘completely obsessed’ with Islam and displayed extreme and disruptive behaviour at Friday prayers during his most recent spell in prison.

He was also a regular at anti-Israel demonstrations and marches for the release of Muslim prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, having first been put behind bars in 1996 as a juvenile delinquent and going in and out of prison for 16 years until he found religion. 

In 2001 he was banned from his local court, where he was a regular in the dock, for turning up to abuse staff and ranting about 9/11. He was a regular visitor to Pakistan and reportedly a member of the Tablighi Jamaat group, set up to ‘purify’ Islam and banned from Saudi after the kingdom described the group as a ‘gateway to terrorism’.

One US senator, briefed on the case the Department for Homeland Security and a former Pentagon official, told The Daily Telegraph today: ‘Certainly someone let the ball drop.’ 

The security services were today accused of a serious ‘intelligence failure’ after a British Islamist was able to travel to the US – and MailOnline can reveal that about a fortnight ago two detectives called at the end-terrace house in Blackburn where he had been living, neighbours said.

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 

Malik Faisal Akram, who was known as Faisal Akram, had ranted about 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

Malik Faisal Akram, who was known as Faisal Akram, had ranted about 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 were said to have been looking for him in his home town of Blackburn (pictured) at around the time he was due to travel to the US

Police were said to have been looking for him in his home town of Blackburn (pictured) at around the time he was due to travel to the US

Akram’s family have expressed their disbelief that he had been let through customs at New York’s JFK airport around January 2.

But it appears that police were looking for him, with two detectives arriving at his home around that time, but he wasn’t there. 

Former neighbours brand Akram a rude person who often lost his temper

Shocked former neighbours of Malik Faisal Akram in Britain have branded him a rude person who would often ‘lose his temper’. 

Startling claims from those who previously lived close to Akram in Blackburn were made, with one former neighbour even admitting he was a ‘nasty man’ and that they are ‘not surprised at what has happened.’

Another told the Manchester Evening News that he was occasionally visited by the police, after it was confirmed he had a criminal record and that he was threatened with court action after chopping down a tree without permission.

The news of Akram’s involvement has shocked and outraged people in his hometown of Blackburn, including former neighbours who spoke out.

A woman said she had lived next door to Akram in East Park Road – a leafy area to the north of the town centre – for several years and described him as ‘rude’.

She said Akram had lived in the semi-detached property, overlooking Corporation Park, with his wife and children before moving around three years ago.

‘He was very rude and lost his temper all the time,’ she said. ‘We had a few arguments over the fence. One time, he chopped down a tree and the council tried to take him to court because it was a listed building. He wanted to build another house on his land. He moved out about three years ago. I’m not surprised at what has happened. He was a nasty man and was always falling out with people. Occasionally, the police would go round to the house.’

Another man, who used to live near to Akram’s family in Brantfell Road about 20 years ago, said he was ‘really shocked’ to discover what had happened.

He added: ‘My brother rang me and said ‘do you know these people?’ I said they used to live near me. There were the mum and dad and about nine brothers.

‘They were all into the gym and running. We never had any trouble, they were a quiet family. I was really shocked to hear what happened. You have to be mentally ill to do something like that. There’s no justification. Actions like this are not good for the community and not good for humanity.’

The man said that after leaving the street, Akram and his family had remained in the nearby area.

Raja Akmal, who also lives in Brantfell Road, said he feared Akram’s actions would negatively impact Blackburn’s Muslim community.

‘It’s very sad, especially that he is from Blackburn,’ said Mr Akmal. ‘It’s a big surprise. Things like this should not happen. It affects the whole community and gives off a bad impression. People in Blackburn are nice and hard-working. The Issa brothers are from here and have made a success of themselves.’

Another neighbour said he knew Akram’s father well and described the family as ‘respectable’.

Akram’s family have spoken out against his attack and condemned his actions.

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‘About three or four weeks ago, two detectives knocked at his door asking for him,’ said one neighbour. It was not clear whether the attempted contact was connected to his plans to travel to the US just days later. 

Today it emerged that Akram has a criminal record dating back more than 25 years.

He found himself in borstal as a teenager before going to an adult prison in 1996, aged 19, for violent disorder after attacking a cousin with a baseball bat.

A year later he was back in prison again, this time for the destruction of property, and then in 1999 for harassment. He is believed to have taken to selling drugs and was then in prison again in 2012 for stealing £5,000 in cash and phones. But the case was later stopped.

It was that stint in HMP Liverpool, that began his path to religious extremism and where he was reported by the prison Imam for ‘concerning and disruptive behaviour’ at Friday prayers.    

By 2017, Akram was now a devout Muslim, and friends said this became extreme after a major car crash where he broke his back and injured his head.

The former neighbour told the Telegraph: ‘I didn’t see him again until 2017 and suddenly he was dressed like a full-on religious scholar. He used to apparently sell drugs but there were rumours that he had suddenly stopped and something had changed.

‘That change [to wearing religious clothing] was shocking. None of my other friends from school have changed like that and suddenly he looks like he is extremely religious. I thought ‘what has happened to you’?’

He described him as ‘radicalised and became obsessive, absolutely obsessive’ about religion.

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.’

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. 

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. 

On January 15 he launched the attack on the synagogue, gaining entry by asking for shelter, before being shot dead by a SWAT team 10 hours later. 

Akram was known to counter-terrorism police in Britain, his family revealed.

His brother demanded to know why the 44-year-old convicted criminal had been granted a visa to enter the US, where he took four people hostage at the weekend.

Gulbar Akram asked: ‘How did he get into America? How [did] he land at JFK [in New York] airport and not get stopped?’

MI5 and counter-terrorism police refused to discuss the case as questions mounted over why border checks failed to flag him up as potential extremist.

However, last night it emerged that police had attempted to contact the hostage-taker shortly before he travelled to New York. 

While detectives in Britain investigating the Texas siege continued to question two teenagers arrested in Manchester last night, investigators around the world were urgently trying to establish whether Akram – who was shot dead after his hostages escaped – was operating as part of a wider organised plot.

He held four members of the congregation hostage while demanding the release of convicted terrorist, Aafia Siddiqui, known as ‘Lady Al Qaeda’. The authorities were trying to establish if there was a link between the two, though Siddiqui’s cause has been picked up by militants.

After being involved in petty crime as a young man, Akram had in recent years cut himself off from his moderate Muslim family’s ‘peaceful and tolerant’ faith and embraced fundamentalist forms of Islam.

According to his brother Gulbar, Akram spent six months in prison for violent disorder for wielding a baseball bat during a family feud with his cousins.

He became regarded as a ‘menace’ at the town’s magistrates court for hanging around abusing staff. The day after the 9/11 attacks he launched a shocking rant at a court usher, saying he wished he had died on one of the hijacked jets.

However Akram – who is understood to have married and lived in Manchester with his six children – later told a friend he had ‘found Allah’. He ceased to worship at his father’s mosque and began attending meetings of the Tablighi Jamaat group, set up to ‘purify’ Islam.

It is banned in Saudi Arabia as ‘one of the gates of terrorism’ although its 80million supporters worldwide insist its teachings are not linked to violence.

He was pictured at demonstrations for Muslim prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and in support of Palestinian independence.

‘He became quite a religious guy,’ a neighbour said. ‘If he saw someone smoking he would tell them off.’

The second of six children, Malik Faisal Akram was born in Blackburn where his father, also Malik, served as president of a local mosque after emigrating from his native Pakistan.

Gulbar, 43 last night blamed the terror attack on his brother’s mental health struggles. He said he had been known to counter-terrorism police in Britain. ‘How had he gotten into America?’ he said. ‘Why was he granted a visa?’

Akram was not on a US government watchlist, a law enforcement source told CNN, with no ‘terrorrelated threat information’ found since the attack.

Evan Kohlmann, a counter terror expert at computer security service Flashpoint, said there would be questions in the US and the UK about ‘where the system broke down’. Commenting that Akram ‘obviously had a plan,’ he added: ‘It wouldn’t blow me away to find out he was recruited by Al Qaeda.’

‘There is a tendency to look on somebody like this and say he’s an idiot, there’s no way he was recruited, but that’s not realistic. It doesn’t take a PhD to kill somebody.’

Police and Whitehall sources refused to confirm whether he was known to officers or to MI5.

Countdown to synagogue siege: British terrorist Faisal Akram, 44, stayed in Christian homeless shelter and bought ‘guns on street’ after flying to New York 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, most likely on a flight from Manchester, and was granted legal entry to the US, despite having a criminal record. 

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. 

Although Akram said in the entry documents he would be staying there it is unclear if he actually did, with a receptionist at the hotel unable to say whether this was the case, the NY Times reported. The receptionist said FBI agents had reviewed its CCTV but found nothing useful. 

The British Muslim crossed the country, likely by internal flight, next appearing at a Texan Christian charity asking for a bed for the night.  

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’ from January 6 – 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. 

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 

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. It is not clear if he actually stayed there

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. It is not clear if he actually stayed there 

He entered the synagogue around 11am on Saturday morning as a service was live-streamed online due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

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. 

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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 outside 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. 

His brother, Gulbar, said he worked with the FBI in attempts to end the stand-off. Counterterror police in the UK confirmed last night they were working with counterparts in the US.

In a post on the Blackburn Muslim community Facebook page, Gulbar said that although his brother was suffering from mental health issues ‘we were confident that he would not harm the hostages’.

He said he had spent ‘all night’ in an incident room at Greenbank Police Station ‘until the early hours liaising with Faisal (Akram), the negotiators, FBI etc’.

‘And although my brother was suffering from mental health issues we were confident that he would not harm the hostages,’ Gulbar said.

‘At around 3am the first person was released, then an hour later he released the other 3 people through the fire door unharmed.’

He added: ‘A few minutes later a firefight has taken place and he was shot and killed. There was nothing we could have said to him or done that would have convinced him to surrender’.

Gulbar added that the FBI was due to arrive in the UK on Sunday to speak to Akram’s family.

He said: ‘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’.

One hostage had been released uninjured at about 5pm local time on Saturday and the rest came out a few hours later.

Dramatic video shot by a local news crew showed some hostages fleeing out of a door to the synagogue.

They included Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker who was leading the service at the time.

Akram can be seen briefly leaving the building in the footage while holding a pistol before going back in.

Moments later SWAT teams moved in and gunshots were heard.

The standoff was watched by some members of the synagogue’s congregation on the live stream as they sat at home.

Akram could be heard saying in a Northern English accent: ‘If anyone tries to enter this building, I’m telling you…everyone will die.’

Stacey Silverman, a member of synagogue, said: ‘The perpetrator was completely deranged, foul mouthed, swearing, saying anti-Semitic tropes, talking about Israel and Palestine and Islam and that he had a gun.

‘He implied he had a bomb in his backpack and that he could let it loose at any minute. It was horrifying and it went on for a few hours. I was terrified.’

ABC News reported that the Akram claimed to have bombs in unspecified locations and that he had explosives in backpacks with him.

In a post on Facebook Rabbi Cytron-Walker said: ‘I am grateful that we made it out. I am grateful to be alive.’

The FBI and police in the town, which is around 27 miles from Dallas, are now liaising with the Metropolitan Police in London as part of an investigation with ‘global reach’.

A spokesperson for the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office said it was ‘aware of the death of a British man in Texas and are in contact with the local authorities’.

Assistant Chief Constable Dominic Scally for Counter Terror Policing North West said authorities are ‘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,’ he said.

Akram had only recently travelled to the US, according to Sky News, raising questions about why and how he targeted this particular synagogue.

Lead FBI special agent Matthew DeSarno confirmed Akram was a British citizen and that ‘at this time there is no indication that other individuals are involved’.

Speaking on a trip to Philadelphia, Joe Biden said: ‘This was an act of terror; it was an act of terror.’

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss Tweeted: ‘My thoughts are with the Jewish community and all those affected by the appalling act in Texas.

‘We condemn this act of terrorism and anti-semitism. We stand with US in defending the rights and freedoms of our citizens against those who spread hate.’

The Texas Department of Public Safety had said in a statement as the situation was unfolding: ‘The man claims he and his sister will be going to Jannah (Muslim belief of heaven) after he sees her.’

Before the livestream was cut off Akram made the chilling comment: ‘I am going to die today. Are you listening? I am going to die. Ok? So don’t cry over me. Ok, don’t cry over me’.

It is unclear why Akram demanded the release of Siddiqui, who 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.

A lawyer representing the woman’s brother denied he was involved and said he had no idea why she was being mentioned.

The incident comes amid rising numbers of anti-Semitic attacks in the US and police in Dallas and major cities like New York stepped up patrols outside synagogues.

In 2018 a gunman shot dead 11 people and injured six at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, during Shabbat morning services.

‘He told us to get on our knees, but I said no’: Hostage details breathless escape from British terrorist inside Texas synagogue after ‘hero’ rabbi threw a CHAIR at him

A Texan man held hostage by a British terrorist during the 10-hour synagogue siege told on Monday of their dramatic escape, as Senator Ted Cruz joined calls for an urgent investigation into the case.

Jeffrey Cohen, vice president for the board of trustees at Congregation Beth Israel, was one of four people held on Saturday in Colleyville, Texas, by Malik Faisal Akram, 44.

Akram had arrived in the U.S. in mid December, landing at New York’s JFK airport before making his way to Texas, buying a gun, and taking four people captive. Akram died on Saturday night shortly after the hostages fled – leaving many unanswered questions.

Cohen on Monday wrote a lengthy Facebook post detailing the siege, and praising the active shooter training for teaching him how to handle the intense situation.

‘First of all, we escaped,’ said Cohen, an engineer at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. 

‘We weren’t released or freed. We escaped because we had training from the Secure Community Network on what to do in the event of an active shooter. 

‘This training saved our lives – I am not speaking in hyperbole here – it saved our lives.’

Jeffrey Cohen, a NASA engineer, was among the four people held hostage in Texas on Saturday by a British terrorist

Jeffrey Cohen, a NASA engineer, was among the four people held hostage in Texas on Saturday by a British terrorist

Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker and Cohen both credited their active shooter training for helping them escape

Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker and Cohen both credited their active shooter training for helping them escape

Cohen told of the fear that he, Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker and the two others felt after the ‘calm and happy’ man who they had welcomed into their synagogue – Cytron-Walker made him a cup of tea, chatted with him before the service and introduced him to others – pulled out an automatic weapon.

He said it was very different from how it is depicted in films. 

‘Movies are scripted. Everyone knows exactly what every other actor will do. It is not surreal. 

‘On the contrary, it is quite real and realistic,’ Cohen said.

Cohen said that, when confronted with a gunman, fighting back is a last resort, because he feared the others would be shot.

He said he contemplated attacking him, but never got close enough.

Cohen explained how his training allowed him to make a series of careful decisions that may well have saved his life, and the lives of his fellow captives.

‘I keep my phone next to me during services, and that was important,’ he wrote. 

‘I quickly dialed 911 and put the phone screen side down on the chair and moved as commanded. But not exactly as commanded. Instead of going to the back of the room, I stayed in line with one of the exits.’

SWAT teams from the Colleyville Police Department responded to the synagogue after emergency calls began at about 10:41 a.m. during the Sabbath service

SWAT teams from the Colleyville Police Department responded to the synagogue after emergency calls began at about 10:41 a.m. during the Sabbath service

The standoff took place at the Congregation Beth Israel, in Colleyville, just 27 miles from Dallas

The standoff took place at the Congregation Beth Israel, in Colleyville, just 27 miles from Dallas

Cohen said that he remained mindful of the easiest way out of the building, and encouraged others to do the same.

‘Later in the day, I helped one of my fellows by moving him closer to the door,’ Cohen explained. 

‘While rubbing his shoulders, I whispered about the exit door. 

‘Still later, when we received the pizza, I suggested to our third hostage that he bring it back to us. 

‘We were all within 20 feet of the exit door. This proved critical for our escape.’  

Cohen said that he and the others tried to ‘keep the gunman engaged’, and ask questions that he hoped may ultimately be useful for the FBI.

The authorities are still piecing together Akram’s movements and motivations, and have said little about the ongoing investigation.

He is known to have called for the release of a female al-Qaeda terrorist, Aafia Siddiqui, who is currently serving her 86-year sentence in Texas.

Cohen said they remained calm, but towards the end of the 10-hour siege the situation deteriorated.

One of the four hostages is seen being escorted from the building shortly after 5pm. The other three would remain inside for several hours more

One of the four hostages is seen being escorted from the building shortly after 5pm. The other three would remain inside for several hours more 

Members of the SWAT team are seen on Saturday outside the Colleyville synagogue

Members of the SWAT team are seen on Saturday outside the Colleyville synagogue

One hostage had been released, leaving the rabbi, Cohen, and a third worshipper named Shane. 

‘At one point, our attacker instructed us to get on our knees,’ he said. 

‘I reared up in my chair, stared at him sternly. I think I slowly moved my head and mouthed NO. 

‘He stared at me, then moved back to sit down. 

‘It was this moment when Rabbi Charlie yelled run. 

‘Shane had one step on me. I grabbed him and pushed him through the door (we were so close, that the report said only 2 people came out – there were three of us).

‘Going out the door, I stumbled hitting the ground hard. I heard our attacker open the door. I was on the ground without my glasses, my plan became getting through the hedge line. 

‘In all honesty, I thought I was further under than I was. In fact, I was quite exposed. 

‘The lesson is that just because your head is covered doesn’t mean your body isn’t completely in the open. 

‘When I heard the door close and an officer yell, I got up and ran.’

On Monday night, an interfaith service was held in Southlake, Texas.

Whites Chapel United Methodist Church, where a special service was being held on Monday night

Whites Chapel United Methodist Church, where a special service was being held on Monday night

Community members arrive for a healing service for Congregation Beth Israel at White's Chapel United Methodist Church

Community members arrive for a healing service for Congregation Beth Israel at White’s Chapel United Methodist Church

Jawaid Alam, president of the Islamic Center of Southlake, told The Fort Worth Star-Telegram that Cytron-Walker is a personal friend and a friend of the Muslim community who has promoted peace and cooperation across faiths. 

‘He is a peace-loving person, a Rabbi and Jewish leader, but a true friend of the Muslim community,’ Alam said. 

‘He and his family are considered part of the Muslim community, and he considers us part of the Jewish community.’ 

Alam said it is ‘unthinkable that this would happen at the synagogue of a peace-loving rabbi who has promoted interfaith talks.’

Ted Cruz, senator for Texas, said on Monday that there were significant unanswered questions, and called for a complete investigation.

‘I am grateful for the brave men and women of law enforcement who heroically freed the hostages and stopped the terrorist,’ said Cruz.

‘The publicly reported details regarding how this terrorist carried out his vile anti-Semitic attack are highly concerning.

‘A full investigation must be completed, and anyone else found to be involved in this attack or otherwise engaged in illegal activity should be brought to justice.

‘I will continue to work to ensure that law enforcement has all the resources they need to get to the bottom of what transpired.’ 

Most Britons visiting the US as tourists come on an ‘ESTA’ visa waiver – which involves filling out a form online where applicants must confirm they’ve never committed any crimes, or been a member of a terrorist group.  

Jesse Watters, the Fox News host, also on Monday demanded answers.

‘This guy wasn’t on your radar?’ Watters asked.

‘Mr President, you gave him a visa two weeks ago to come into this country. What kind of visa was it? Did you vet him? Was he on a watch list? 

‘Usually, the Feds are all over these people. And then they do a raid immediately in England with associates or people affiliated with them. 

‘So Scotland Yard didn’t know anything about this? MI6 had no clue about this guy?’

Watters also wanted to know how the British citizen was able to get hold of a gun so easily.

‘This guy buys a hot gun off the street two weeks after he gets here? Who is the guy who he bought the gun from?’ Watters asked. 

‘They don’t even know how he died. Who shot him? 

‘There’s a lot of suspicious things about this story and a lot of unanswered questions. And hopefully, Joe has at least one of those answers in the next 48 hours because he should be asked about this.’ 

 

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

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. 

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