Texas hostages escape synagogue as FBI SWAT team rushes

0

FILE - Police vehicles stand outside the Congregation Beth Israel Synagogue, Sunday, Jan. 16, 2022, in Colleyville, Texas.  A White House spokeswoman says an armed Briton who took four people hostage in a 10 a.m. Saturday synagogue standoff that ended in his death entered the United States without lifting the slightest red flag during multiple checks in law enforcement databases.  (AP Photo/Brandon Wade, File)

FILE – Police vehicles stand outside the Congregation Beth Israel Synagogue, Sunday, Jan. 16, 2022, in Colleyville, Texas. A White House spokeswoman says an armed Briton who took four people hostage in a 10 a.m. Saturday synagogue standoff that ended in his death entered the United States without lifting the slightest red flag during multiple checks in law enforcement databases. (AP Photo/Brandon Wade, File)

PA

In the final moments of a 10-hour standoff with a gunman at a Texas synagogue, the remaining hostages and officials trying to negotiate their release took “almost simultaneous courses of action”, with the hostages then escaping that an FBI tactical team was moving in, an official said Friday.

“I think we both realized at about the same time: It’s time to go,” Matt DeSarno, the FBI special agent in charge in Dallas, said at a press conference.

DeSarno said just after 9 p.m. on January 15, he allowed his teams into the synagogue just as the hostages came to “a similar conclusion” to escape.

As officers approached the building, he said, they encountered the three remaining hostages fleeing and continued on their way to the synagogue to confront Malik Faisal Akram, the 44-year-old British citizen. who took four hostages during morning services at Congregation Beth Israel in the Dallas-area suburb of Colleyville.

Akram had freed a hostage shortly after 5 p.m., but those who remained said he had become more belligerent and threatening as the night progressed. Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker said Friday that while Akram had a drink in his hand, he threw a chair at Akram and he and the other two remaining hostages fled.

“We were constantly looking for an opportunity to leave,” Cytron-Walker said.

When the time came, the FBI rushed in and shot Akram, DeSarno said.

The Tarrant County Medical Examiner said Friday Akram was killed by multiple gunshot wounds and ruled his death a homicide, a ruling that does not necessarily indicate a felony. The medical examiner determined that Akram died at 9:22 p.m.

DeSarno, who drew attention for saying on Jan. 15 that the hostage taker was focusing on an issue not specifically related to the Jewish community, took pains Friday to point out that the FBI viewed the episode as an act of terrorism that threatened the Jewish community. community and “intentionally targeted” a place of worship. The act, he said, “was committed by a terrorist espousing an anti-Semitic worldview.”

“It was both a hate crime and an act of terrorism,” DeSarno said.

DeSarno said Akram would have chosen the synagogue because it is the closest to a nearby federal prison in Fort Worth that houses a “convicted terrorist” with alleged ties to al-Qaeda. During the negotiations, Akram demanded the release of this prisoner in exchange for the release of the hostages. Although he did not name the prisoner, other law enforcement officials identified her as Aafia Siddiqui, who is serving an 86-year prison sentence after being convicted of shooting American servicemen after being detained in Afghanistan.

Siddiqui’s attorney said she had no connection to Akram.

Akram was from the English industrial town of Blackburn. His family said he “suffers from mental health issues”.

He arrived in New York on a tourist visa about two weeks before the attack and ran through law enforcement databases without raising a red flag, officials said. He spent time at Dallas-area homeless shelters before the attack and visited an area mosque at least twice to pray.

Investigators had been trying to determine how Akram got to Colleyville from Dallas. On Friday, the Colleyville police chief said they found a mountain bike at a nearby football complex and were able to unlock it with a key found on Akram’s body.

The FBI is still investigating how Akram used the weapon in the attack, although it managed to track its movements from his arrival in New York on December 29 until he entered the synagogue. DeSarno said agents were still examining his devices and examining his contacts, but he was not known to the FBI or US intelligence until the hostage crisis.

DeSarno said where and how Akram acquired the weapon is “a key flaw” in the investigation.

___

Associated Press writer Eric Tucker contributed from Washington.

Share.

Comments are closed.