London, Jan 17 (PTI) Police in the UK said on Monday that they are questioning two teenagers as part of an ongoing investigation into the siege at a synagogue in the US state of Texas, which ended in the death of British hostage-taker Malik Faisal Akram.
Greater Manchester Police confirmed that the suspect shot dead by the FBI during the standoff at the Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville was 44-year-old Akram, originally from the Blackburn area of Lancashire in northwest England.
He was demanding the release of Pakistani neuroscientist Afia Siddiqui, suspected of ties with Al Qaeda and currently serving an 86-year sentence after being convicted of trying to kill US military officers while in custody in Afghanistan.
“We can confirm that the suspect, who is deceased, is 44-year-old Malik Faisal Akram, originally from the Blackburn area of Lancashire,” said Assistant Chief Constable Dominic Scally for England’s Counter Terror Policing North West.
“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,” he said.
The teenagers detained in south Manchester on Sunday evening in connection with the investigation cannot be named for legal reasons, but the force said they “remain in custody for questioning”. Scotland Yard also confirmed counter-terror officers were liaising with US authorities and the FBI.
US President Joe Biden called the hostage-taking an “act of terror”, with the UK condemning the attack soon after.
“My thoughts are with the Jewish community and all those affected by the appalling act in Texas,” UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said on Twitter.
“We condemn this act of terrorism and anti-Semitism. We stand with the US in defending the rights and freedoms of our citizens against those who spread hate,” she said.
According to reports from the US, Akram arrived in the country via New York’s JFK International Airport two weeks ago. Akram’s brother Gulbar confirmed his death in a statement carried on social media and also apologised to the victims, saying his brother had been suffering from mental health issues.
In a statement, the brother said family members in Britain spent hours “liaising with Faisal” during the siege over the weekend, and that although he was “suffering from mental health issues we were confident that he would not harm the hostages”.
Gulbar said: “We would like to say that we as a family do not condone any of his actions and would like to sincerely apologise wholeheartedly to all the victims involved in the unfortunate incident.
“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.” Akram took four people hostage, including a rabbi, inside the synagogue in Colleyville at around 11 am local time on Saturday. One was freed after six hours before an FBI SWAT team entered the building at around 9 pm, shot the attacker dead, and released the other three unharmed. The rabbi held hostage in the attack, Charlie Cytron-Walker, said Akram became “increasingly belligerent and threatening” during the standoff.
The first part of the siege was captured on a Facebook Livestream of the morning shabbat prayers at the synagogue. On it, the hostage-taker was heard demanding the release of Aafia Siddiqui and said he wanted to speak to her. Witnesses claim he referred to her as his sister, but John Floyd, of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said Siddiqui’s brother was not involved.
Floyd was quoted as saying: “This assailant has nothing to do with Dr Aafia, her family, or the global campaign to get justice for Dr Aafia.
“We want the assailant to know that his actions are wicked and directly undermine those of us who are seeking justice for Dr Aafia.” According to reports, no explosive material was found on Akram and there are no signs of criminal history so far. PTI AK AMS AKJ AMS
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