Malik Faisal Akram was the suspect who took hostages at a synagogue in Colleyville, Texas. The 44-year-old British man was killed in the January 15, 2022, incident at Congregation Beth Israel. The FBI and local authorities are still investigating and British officials said they are also involved in the probe. He was identified in a statement from the FBI. Four hostages, all adults, including Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, were held in the synagogue for several hours before being released uninjured.
“The FBI’s Evidence Response Team (ERT) will continue processing evidence at the synagogue. At this time, there is no indication that any other individuals involved,” the FBI’s Dallas Field Office said in a statement obtained by Heavy. “The FBI’s North Texas Joint Terrorism Task Force, which includes member agencies from across the region, will continue to follow investigative leads. An FBI Incident Review Team will conduct a thorough, factual and objective investigation of the events.”
Anyone with information is asked to contact the FBI at tips.fbi.gov or call 1-800-CALL-FBI. A photo of Akram has not been released and little information about him has been uncovered.
That identification came after the hostage-taker claimed he was convicted terrorist Aafia Siddique’s brother Muhammad Siddiqui, but her lawyer told The Daily Beast that he is not Aafia’s biological sibling. Still, that claim may provide a glimpse of motive in the hostage taking, during which the suspect was captured on the synagogue’s live stream Facebook video after entering the building during a religious service.
In a news conference, authorities said the hostages are unharmed and the hostage taker was killed in a shooting, although it’s not clear who fired the shot. Some hostages were seen running out of a door. Video recorded by WFAA-TV shows hostages running out the door, followed by a man with a gun who then goes back inside.
The synagogue describes itself this way on its Facebook page, “A vibrant Reform Jewish Congregation committed to providing life-long opportunities for spiritual growth and learning based on Jewish values. CBI was established July 18, 1999.”
Here’s what you need to know about Malik Faisal Akram and the incident:
1. Malik Faisal Akram Is From Blackburn, England & His Brother Said Their Family ‘Would like to Sincerely Apologize Wholeheartedly to All the Victims’
In a statement posted to Twitter, Greater Manchester Police Assistant Chief Constable Dominic Scally for Counter Terror Policing North West said, “Firstly, our thoughts remain with everyone affected by the terrible events that took place in Texas on 15 January.”
The statement continued:
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. We continue to urge the public to report anything that be linked to terrorism by police.
Malik Faisal Akram is from Blackburn in northwest England in Lancashire. The Blackburn Muslim Community posted a message on Facebook after he was identified stating, “Faisal Akram has sadly departed from this temporary world and returned to his Creator. He was the son of Mohammed Malik Akram and the brother of Gulbar, Malik, Nasar, Yassar and Late Gulzameer Akram. 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.”
The statement added, “There are many stories circulating in the local community so please avoid taking part in the sin of backbiting. Let the authorities complete their investigations, have respect for the family and allow them to mourn peacefully.” The Blackburn Muslim Community Facebook page also posted a statement from Akram’s brother, Gulbar.
“Salaam Family & Friends, 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 their 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,” the statement said. The suspect’s brother added:
Sitting in the incident room all last night at Greenbank 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.
At around 3am the first person was released then an hour later he released the other 3 people through the fire door unharmed. Don’t believe the bull#### in the media they were released from the fire exit and Not rescued.
A few minutes later a firefight has taken place and he was shot and killed. ILWIAR. There was nothing we could have said to him or done that would have convinced him to surrender. The FBI are due to fly into the UK later today so we don’t have much else to share at the moment. 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 etc
Finally to all the people that have been bombarding us with non stop calls and texts please for the love of Allah STOP please STOP show some restraint and respect at such a difficult time for our family especially after losing our younger sibling barely 3 months ago. Please if you can grant us some privacy as we are grieving privately in our homes. Please keep our family present and deceased in your prayers. I will of course update you very soon.
Before the suspect was named, he is accused of making a false claim, tying himself to a major terrorist. But it wasn’t true.
In a statement emailed to Heavy, Houston Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-Houston) Board Chair John Floyd and legal counsel for the brother of Dr. Aafia, condemned the synagogue hostage taking situation and said that the “assailant has nothing to do with Dr. Aafia” or her family. The statement read, in part:
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. On behalf of the family and Dr. Aafia, we call on you to immediately release the hostages and turn yourself in. The CAIR-Houston office has represented Dr. Aafia’s brother since 2004. We have confirmed that the family member being wrongly accused of this heinous act is not near the DFW Metro area. We call on the reporters that claimed this man to be a member of Dr. Aafia’s family to correct their reports and issue an apology to the Siddiqui family.
“Aafia Siddiqui’s biological brother, Muhammad, is not the person holding hostages inside the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue, his lawyer has told The Daily Beast,” the site reported on Twitter.
ABC News first reported the fact the suspect claimed to be Muhammad Siddiqui but indicated law enforcement authorities were still trying to verify whether it was true. The accused Colleyville, Texas, synagogue hostage taker barged into religious services and was recorded on Facebook live ranting about religion and dying, according to ABC News.
According to ABC’s Aaron Katersky, he claimed to be the brother of Aafia Siddiqui, a woman once called “Lady al Qaeda: The World’s Most Wanted Woman” by Foreign Policy.
“Hostage taker is Muhammad Siddiqui and claims to be Aafia Siddiqui’s brother. He is demanding her freedom from an 86-year prison sentence,” reported ABC News’ Aaron Katersky on Twitter. ABC News reported in its story, though, that while the suspect is claiming to be Aafia Siddiqui’s brother, authorities are working to confirm his identity. That tweet came before her lawyer told Daily Beast it wasn’t the brother.
2. President Joe Biden Called the Incident an ‘Act of Terror’ & Said the Suspect Stayed in a Homeless Shelter After Flying to the U.S. About 2 Weeks Ago Via New York
Akram arrived in the United States through JFK International Airport about two weeks before the incident, according to CBS News. It was not immediately clear if Akram was on any kind of watchlist or if he was known to police in the U.S. or in the U.K. prior to the attack. CBS’ Nicole Sganga tweeted, “Federal law enforcement investigating the scene have not yet found any explosive material was on the suspect, a senior federal law enforcement source tells @CBSNews. Per @MacFarlaneNews, federal courts do not show a criminal history for the suspect.”
Sganga added that the FBI believes Akram was able to enter the synagogue “by claiming to be a homeless man. … Investigators assessed through communication w/ the suspect that he appeared ’emotionally unstable.’
At an event on Sunday, January 16, 2022, President Joe Biden said the gunman used weapons bought off the street to carry out an “an act of terror,” Reuters reports.
Speaking at an event in Philadelphia, Biden told reporters, “Allegedly – I don’t have all the facts, nor does the attorney general – but allegedly the assertion was he got the weapons on the street. 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 FBI has released few details about the incident. It was not immediately clear if officials planned to release additional information at a press conference on Sunday. The FBI and the Department of Justice have not commented about Biden’s statements.
Congressman Michael McCaul, a Republican from the Dallas area, told CNN’s Jake Tapper on Sunday, “This is a disturbing case that demonstrates that antisemitism is, unfortunately, alive and well. I think they chose this synagogue because Siddiqui, ‘Lady Al-Qaeda’ they call her, is being detained in a Fort Worth prison facility. … I know the FBI has now fanned their investigation out to London and Tel-Aviv. So this has now turned into an international investigation. There is something more here and the fact that he’s calling for ‘Lady Al-Qaeda’s’ release from prison has been in the Jihadist world kind of cause celebre.”
McCaul added, “I think we are going to find out a lot more in the next 24 to 48 hours. He is British. I wouldn’t be surprised if he is Pakistani, just like Siddiqui. And we need to get to the bottom of this. We haven’t seen one of these radicalized attacks in a few years now and it’s disturbing to see it raise its ugly head again.”
U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said told CBS’ Face the Nation that the incident was an “act of antisemitism” and “act of terrorism,” saying investigators are working to determine the “full parameters” of the incident. Sullivan said, “We have the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI and law enforcement and intelligence agencies working intensively to get a full picture of what this person’s motives were and whether or not there were any further connections.”
Sullivan added, “I will leave it to the professionals to continue their work today and as we have more information we will share it. But I do think we should all take a moment to pay tribute to the local, state and federal law enforcement officers who acted bravely, professionally and effectively to rescue those hostages and bring this situation to a safe conclusion. They are heroes and they deserve our support. We should also raise our vigilance against acts of terrorism and acts of antisemitism, particularly at synagogues and places of worship in this country.”
U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas tweeted, “Today, four Americans in Colleyville, Texas, are safe at home and reunited with their families thanks to the extraordinary bravery and determined action of first responders and state, local, and federal law enforcement. For Congregation Beth Israel & the Jewish community, the immediate crisis is over. Yet the fear of rising antisemitism remains.”
He added, “We must answer hate with action & ensure synagogues and all houses of worship are sanctuaries of safety, Shabbat and other days of faithful observance a time of peace, and America a place of freedom for all. @DHSgov
and our partners will continue working every day to protect the security of all houses of worship and communities of faith everywhere across our nation.”
3. The Suspect, Who Claimed to Have Set Up Bombs, Said, ‘I Hope I Don’t Have to Shoot Anyone,’ in the Live Video
ABC News reported that the “armed suspect claiming to have bombs in unknown locations took a rabbi and three others hostage.” He demanded that his sister be freed in live stream video.
The hostage situation unfolded during religious services at the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue in Colleyville, Texas.
The live Facebook video suddenly ended just before 2 p.m. central time and was removed from Facebook, but not before Heavy listened to some of it. You can watch some of the video later in this article, however. Heavy recorded more than eight minutes of it. The live video was captioned, “CBI Shabbat Morning Service.”
There are no injuries at this time, CNN reported.
Jessika Harkey, a reporter for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, wrote on Twitter, “At the scene in Colleyville where a local synagogue is being held hostage. The Congregation Beth Israel, located at 6100 Pleasant Run Rd., was in the middle of a service when a gunman entered. A livestream of the service remains ongoing during the situation.”
The live stream video on the church Facebook page captured a man talking. “I will go down dying” and “I’ve lived on these feet for 14 days,” he said at different points of the live video
The video featured audio of the man ranting for a lengthy period of time, but it did not show video images of what was going on inside the synagogue.
“I hope I don’t have to shoot anyone,” he said at another point, as hundreds of Facebook users listened online. He also said, “At this point in time, we have no casualties.” He also talked about praying.
People who were listening to the live stream wrote comments on the video thread, including these:
“He wants to talk to his sister to say goodbye. They have to delay this.”
“Please report the video.”
Soon thereafter, the video was taken down.
CNN reported that the FBI was at the scene. “The FBI negotiators are the ones who have contact with the person in the building,” Colleyville Police Sgt Dara Nelson told CNN, adding that there is “no threat to the general public.”
4. Aafia Siddiqui Is Accused of Having Ties to 9/11 Mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed
While Aafia Siddiqui’s brother was not the hostage taker, the hostage taker is accused of claiming that affiliation provides clues as to his potential motivation. Thus, it’s worth exploring her background.
Aafia Siddiqui is a Pakistani citizen and U.S.-educated neuroscientist who allegedly belonged to an al-Qaeda cell in Pakistan. She is currently serving an 86-year sentence in U.S. federal prison for assaulting U.S. federal agents, employees, and nationals during a 2008 interrogation in Afghanistan. The Pakistani government has lobbied for her release while al-Qaeda and other extremist groups have repeatedly demanded Siddiqui’s release in exchange for hostages.
A 2008 news release from the U.S. Department of Justice announced the indictment of Aafia Siddiqui.
She was accused in the “attempted murder and assault of United States nationals and officers and employees,” the news release said. The indictment was filed in Manhattan federal court. It alleged:
On July 18, 2008, a team of United States servicemen and law enforcement officers, and others assisting them, attempted to interview Aafia Siddiqui in Ghazni, Afghanistan, where she had been detained by local police the day before. The United States interview team included, among others: three officers and employees of the United States Army; two officers and employees of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; and two United States Army contract interpreters.
The interview of Siddiqui was to take place at an Afghan police compound in Ghazni. In a second-floor meeting room at the compound — where Siddiqui was being held, unbeknownst to the United States interview team, unsecured, behind a curtain — Siddiqui obtained one of the United States Army officer’s M-4 rifle and attempted to fire it, and did fire it, at another United States Army officer and other members of United States interview team. Siddiqui repeatedly stated her intent and desire to kill Americans.
Siddiqui then assaulted one of the United States Army interpreters, as he attempted to obtain the M-4 rifle from her. Siddiqui subsequently assaulted one of the FBI agents and one of the United States Army officers, as they attempted to subdue her.
On the previous day, July 17, 2008, when Siddiqui was detained by Afghan authorities, a number of items were in her possession, including handwritten notes that referred to a ‘mass casualty attack’ and that listed various locations in the United States, including Plum Island, the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, Wall Street, and the Brooklyn Bridge.
Other notes in Siddiqui’s possession referred to the construction of ‘dirty bombs,’ and discussed various ways to attack “enemies,” including by destroying reconnaissance drones, using underwater bombs, and using gliders. Siddiqui also possessed a computer thumb drive that contained correspondence referring to specific ‘cells,’ ‘attacks’ by certain ‘cells,’ and ‘enemies.’ Other documents on the thumb drive discussed recruitment and training.
At that time, the indictment said that Aafia Siddiqui was “a 36-year-old Pakistani woman” who “resided in the United States from in or about 1991 until June 2002, and obtained degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Brandeis University. Siddiqui returned to the United States on December 25, 2002, and departed on January 2, 2003.”
The release said:
Siddiqui is charged in the Indictment with: (1) one count of attempting to kill United States nationals outside the United States; (2) one count of attempting to kill United States officers and employees; (3) one count of armed assault of United States officers and employees; (4) one count of using and carrying a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence; and (5) three counts of assault of United States officers and employees.
She was later convicted.
According to Counter Extremism, “on February 3, 2010, Following a two-week trial in New York City, Siddiqui was convicted of all charges against her. She was never charged with terrorism-related offenses. Thousands protested across Pakistan following her conviction. That September, Siddiqui was sentenced to 86 years in prison.”
The site reported that Siddiqui’s imprisonment has made her a “superstar” among terrorist groups and in Pakistan.
Foreign Policy reported that Aafia “who’s known in counterterrorism circles as ‘Lady al Qaeda,’ has been linked to 9/11 ringleader Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and was once on the FBI’s most-wanted terrorists list.”
Foreign Policy explains of Aafia:
Siddiqui was arrested in 2008 in Afghanistan carrying sodium cyanide, as well as documents describing how to make chemical weapons and dirty bombs and how to weaponize Ebola. When FBI and military officials tried to question Siddiqui, she grabbed a weapon left on the table in her interrogation room and fired upon them.
5. The Synagogue’s Rabbi Said ‘I Am Grateful That We Made It Out. I Am Grateful to Be Alive’
The congregation’s rabbi is Charlie Cytron-Walker. A biography for the rabbi on the synagogue’s website says that “Charlie Cytron-Walker has been the rabbi at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, TX since 2006. He is CBI’s first full-time rabbi.”
Rabbi Charlie is originally from Lansing, Michigan and he graduated from the University of Michigan in 1998. Among other college experiences, he spent forty-eight hours on the streets as someone who was homeless and danced for over twenty-four hours as a part of a Dance Marathon. After graduating, Rabbi Charlie worked at Focus: HOPE, a civil and human rights organization in Detroit, Michigan, and then became the assistant director of the Amherst Survival Center, which housed a food pantry, free store, and soup kitchen in North Amherst, Massachusetts.
Rabbi Charlie attended Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion at its Jerusalem and Cincinnati campuses, receiving his rabbinical ordination in 2006 and M.A. in Hebrew Letters in 2005. His rabbinical thesis was titled, “Jewish Service-Learning: Integrating Talmud Torah and Ma’asim Tovim”. As a student, he served congregations in Ishpeming, MI, Fort Walton Beach, FL, and Cincinnati, OH. During his time at HUC-JIR, he received multiple awards for his service to the community, along with an award for leadership from QESHET: A Network of LGBT Reform Rabbis.
He is married with two daughters. He issued a statement on Facebook the morning after he and the other hostages were freed saying, “I am thankful and filled with appreciation for all of the vigils and prayers and love and support, all of the law enforcement and first responders who cared for us, all of the security training that helped save us.”
The other hostages have not been identified. They have not spoken publicly about what happened while they were being held. The rabbi added, “I am grateful for my family. I am grateful for the CBI Community, the Jewish Community, the Human Community. I am grateful that we made it out. I am grateful to be alive.”
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