UK arrests linked to Texas shul hostage-taking ‘underlines potential threats’ to Jewish community

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Texas hostage-taking

UK arrests linked to Texas shul hostage-taking ‘underlines potential threats’ to Jewish community

Community Security Trust say Saturday's 10-hour stand-off at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville was 'an attack on a Jewish target by a British Islamist terrorist'

Police were stationed outside the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue in Colleyville, Texas (Photo: Twitter)
Police were stationed outside the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue in Colleyville, Texas (Photo: Twitter)

British Jews have been urged to remain alert to “potential threats” in the wake of two arrests in Manchester in connection to the Texas synagogue hostage stand-off.

The teenage suspects were held after a British man, Malik Faisal Akram, flew to the US, bought a weapon and held people hostage in a 10-hour stand-off at a synagogue.

The four hostages held at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas were unharmed, while the perpetrator, who was from Blackburn, was shot dead when the FBI entered the building on Saturday night.

Greater Manchester Police (GMP) announced that officers from Counter Terror Policing North West made two arrests, teenagers whose ages and genders they did not immediately confirm, and who remain in custody for questioning.

Akram is said to have demanded the release of Pakistani neuroscientist Aafia Siddiqui, who was convicted of trying to kill US army officers in Afghanistan, and is in prison in Texas.

The Community Security Trust (CST)’s Dave Rich said: “While the full facts are still to be confirmed, this appears to be an attack on a Jewish target by a British Islamist terrorist, apparently in pursuit of a cause that has been the subject of widespread campaigning by British Islamists since Aafia Siddiqui was imprisoned in 2010.

“The fact that there have been further arrests in Manchester underlines the potential threat to the Jewish community that this attack represents. Thankfully on this occasion the hostages were all unharmed, but other attacks have ended in much more tragic circumstances.

Rich added that CST has “been in discussions with senior counter-terrorist police since the attack and are also in close contact with our counterparts in the United States, to assist them in any way we can. The attack in Colleyville is another reminder of exactly why CST does its job.”

CST also distributed a statement from counter-terrorist police, to the Jewish community, to “offer our support and reassurance”.

Saying “it is important to remain vigilant and we understand people will be concerned” by the hostage situation, counter-terror police added “this type of incident can have a profound effect on all communities and, in this instance, we are particularly aware of the effect on British Jewish communities.

“We know that many of you will be playing an important role in your own areas to provide support and reassurance to those affected, and to help bring communities together.  We ask that if you become aware of a change in sentiment or growing levels of fear or concern that you make us aware”.

A spokesperson for the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, described Texas synagogue incident as “terrible antisemitic act of terrorism.”

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss condemned the “act of terrorism and antisemitism”, while the British Ambassador to the United States Karen Pierce said UK authorities are providing “full support to Texas and US law enforcement agencies”.

In a statement after Akram’s shooting, his family said they were “absolutely devastated” by what had happened and “do not condone any of his actions”, according to a statement which had been shared on the Blackburn Muslim Community Facebook page.

The statement, attributed to Akram’s brother Gulbar who said he had been involved in negotiating from the UK with his sibling during the ordeal, added that the hostage-taker “was suffering from mental health issues”.

US officials believe Akram had a visa, arrived at John F Kennedy International Airport in New York around two weeks ago and bought a handgun used in the incident.

US President Joe Biden branded the incident “an act of terror” and said while he did not have all the details it was believed Akram had “got the weapons on the street”, adding: “He purchased them when he landed.”

He said there were “no bombs that we know of”, and that Akram is thought to have “spent the first night in a homeless shelter”.

Speaking to reporters after the incident, FBI special agent in charge Matt DeSarno said they believed the man was “singularly focused on one issue and it was not specifically related to the Jewish community”, and added they will continue to “work to find motive”.

Confirming that the hostage-taker had died, he said there would be “an independent investigation of the shooting incident”.

He said the FBI had been in contact with their legal attache offices in London and Israel for an investigation with “global reach”.

Condemning what had happened, the statement from Akram’s family 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.”

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