New Delhi: The Texas synagogue hostage-taker and gunman, Malik Faisal Akram, who was shot down by FBI agents after an 11-hour stand off, had said in a defiant, final call to his family that he will “come home in a body bag”, the Jewish Chronicle reported.
The 44-year-old British national had taken four people, including a Rabbi, hostage for about 12 hours in the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue in the Dallas-Fort Worth suburb of Colleyville on 15 January, demanding the release of the imprisoned Pakistani neuroscientist Aafia Siddiqui, a convicted terrorist who was once one of the world’s most wanted woman, referring to her as “sister”.
Siddiqui was convicted on terrorism charges in 2010 and is serving an 86-year jail term in a Texas federal prison.
In his phone call with his brother from inside the synagogue, Akram said, “I’m opening the doors for every youngster in England to enter America and f*** with them”, reported the Jewish Chronicle. His brother, 43-year-old Gulbar, was talking to him from a police station in Blackburn, England, attempting to pacify him and asking him to surrender before the authorities.
According to the 11.5-minute call recording, Akram ranted, “Live your f***ing life bro, you f***ing coward. We’re coming to f***ing America. F*** them if they want to f*** with us. We’ll give them f***ing war.”
The 44-year-old gunman then went on to say that he had asked “Allah for death”. “Allah is with me, I’m not worried in the slightest,” he purportedly said.
“Why do these f***ing motherf***ers come to our countries, rape our women and f*** our kids? I’m setting a precedent…maybe they’ll have compassion for f***ing Jews,” he yelled, apparently referring to the US’ overseas conflicts, even as his brother kept urging him to give himself up and free the hostages.
Promised to die a ‘martyr’
The 44-year-old then said that he had been praying for the last two years for this, and clarified that his intentions were to die after going “toe to toe” with the police. “…And they can shoot me dead…I’m coming home in a body bag,” he went on.
“I’d rather live one day as a lion than 100 years as a jackal,” he said. He also mentioned one of his other brothers, who passed away due to Covid, saying that he had promised him that he would go down as a “martyr”.
Akram, media reports stated, had landed in the US on 29 December, flew to Dallas days later, and stayed in shelters for the homeless. He had gained entry into the synagogue posing as a homeless man.
Towards the end of the call to his brother, he declared, “I’m bombed up, I’ve got fucking every ammunition.”
Searched for Siddiqui, influential rabbi on internet
According to a Washington Post report, the 44-year-old British national had searched about Aafia Siddiqui, influential rabbis, guns and pawn shops for days before taking the hostages.
Based on his internet search history, investigators suspect that he focused on Rabbi Angela Buchdahl of the Central Synagogue, New York and, deeming her an influential enough Jewish religious leader, thought she would be able to convey his demand for Siddiqui’s release to US policymakers.
At his final target, the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue, where he chose to make a stand, he took Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, congregant Jeffrey Cohen and two others hostage. He also made Cytron-Walker call Buchdahl over the phone and tell her of his demand.
According to the Washington Post report, Akram was thrown out of the Islamic Center of Irving mosque on 1 January after a heated exchange of words with a staff member who had informed him that he isn’t allowed to sleep inside the mosque.
Khalid Hamideh, a lawyer and spokesman for the mosque, told the Washington Post that the 44-year-old carried a “bag or backpack big enough to hold a weapon” and left after the staffer told him he would call the police.
(Edited by Saikat Niyogi)