Two men have been arrested in Birmingham and Manchester as part of the investigation into the Texas synagogue attack by British hostage-taker Malik Faisal Akram.
Akram, 44, originally from Blackburn in Lancashire, was shot dead when the FBI entered the building in Texas on January 15 following a 10-hour stand-off.
Announcing the latest development, Greater Manchester Police said: “Officers from Counter-Terror Policing (CTP) North West continue to support US authorities with their investigation into the events in Texas.
“As a result of this ongoing investigation, two men have been arrested this morning in Birmingham and Manchester.
“They remain in custody for questioning.
“CTP North West officers continue to liaise with and support colleagues from other forces.
“Communities defeat terrorism and the help and support we get from the public is a vital part of that.
- Voice of the Jewish News: Whose synagogue will it be tomorrow?
“So, we would urge everyone to remain vigilant, and if you do see anything suspicious then please report it, in confidence, to police via the anti-terrorist hotline or gov.uk/ACT
“It won’t ruin lives but it may well save them.”
Two teenagers arrested in Manchester following the incident were released without charge on Tuesday.
The hostages were released unharmed while US President Joe Biden branded the incident “an act of terror”.
Audio footage appeared to show a tense final conversation between Akram and his younger brother Gulbar, in which the armed 44-year-old was urged to surrender by his sibling.
The recording, obtained by the Jewish Chronicle from a security source, features Gulbar pleading with his brother to stop.
He said: “Why are you doing that, man? What you doing that for, you know? What’s wrong with you?”
Akram’s replies include his request to die a martyr, as well as some expletive-laden and rambling attempts to justify his actions.
Gulbar, still trying to reason with the hostage-taker, said: “Why have you come to die for? Why though?
“Come on, man.
“You don’t need to do this, whatever you’re doing, man.
“Just pack it in, you’ll get a bit of time and you’ll come out.
“Think about your kids, man, these guys are innocent – these guys you’ve got there are innocent people, man.”
Akram was investigated by MI5 in 2020 but deemed not to be a credible threat to national security at the time, official sources confirmed to the PA news agency.
It is not yet clear how Akram, who had a criminal record in the UK, was able to travel to the US two weeks ago. US officials believe Akram had a visa, arrived at John F Kennedy International Airport in New York and bought the handgun used in the incident.
According to reports, he stayed at a homeless shelter and is believed to have bought a gun on the street before taking four people hostage at the synagogue, one of whom was released after around six hours.
Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.
Unlike other Jewish media, we do not charge for content. That won’t change. Because we are free, we rely on advertising to cover our costs. This vital lifeline, which has dropped in recent years, has fallen further due to coronavirus.
For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.
Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.
You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.
100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...
Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.
There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.
In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.
Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish Newsalso produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.
In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.
Voice of our community to wider society
The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.
We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.