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CrimeUnited States of America

Texas synagogue hostage-taker was British

January 17, 2022

The FBI identified a man who held four hostages in a Texas synagogue as a 44-year-old British national. US President Joe Biden called the incident "an act of terror."

Police stand in front of the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue a day after a hostage situation inside.
The four people who were taken hostage at the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue have all been freedImage: Brandon Wade/AP Photo/picture alliance

A day after a man held four people hostage at a synagogue in the US state of Texas, the FBI said he was a 44-year-old British citizen.

Four people, including the rabbi, were freed after the man took them hostage on Saturday at a synagogue in the small city of Colleyville, Texas. The incident lasted over 10 hours.

In a statement, the FBI said there was no reason to believe anyone else was involved at present.

And Greater Manchester police in the UK said two teenagers had been detained as part of an
ongoing investigation into the incident.

Officers from Counter Terror Policing North West detained the teens in South Manchester on Sunday afternoon. The pair remain in custody for questioning.

'Act of terror'

US President Joe Biden condemned the incident as "an act of terror" on Sunday.

Biden spoke of the need for gun control measures. "The idea of background checks are critical, but you can't stop something like this if someone's on the streets buying something from somebody else on the streets," he said.

On Sunday, UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss condemned the events the day before in Texas. On Twitter, she wrote: "My thoughts are with the Jewish community and all those affected by the appalling act in Texas. We condemn this act of terrorism and antisemitism."

She added, "We stand with US in defending the rights and freedoms of our citizens against those who spread hate." 

The British Foreign Office had confirmed the death of a UK national in Texas, but did not explicitly say if the individual was the hostage-taker.

What happened at the synagogue in Colleyville?

Saturday night as Sabbath ended, the FBI Hostage Rescue Team rushed into the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue in Colleyville. The synagogue is located 16 miles (26 kilometers) northeast of the city of Fort Worth.

One hostage had been freed earlier in the day, six hours into the standoff. The remaining three hostages, including the rabbi, were later rescued safely.

Only the hostage-taker, who authorities identified as Malik Faisal A., died.

Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, who was among the last three hostages released, said Sunday the hostage taker was "increasingly belligerent and  threatening" in the last hour of the standoff.

In a statement, he credited law enforcement and nongovernmental organizations safety training courses with providing the  preparedness training to survive what he said "was a traumatic experience."

The standoff began Saturday at 10:41 a.m. local time when SWAT teams working with the Colleyville police department responded to calls about the situation at Congregation Beth Israel.

SWAT team members deploy near the Congregation Beth Israel Synagogue in Colleyville, Texas
SWAT team members were deployedImage: Andy Jacobsohn/AFP/Getty Images

What is known about the hostage-taker?

The synagogue's Saturday Sabbath service was being livestreamed at the time Malik Faisal A. barged in and took hostages.

During the livestream, Malik Faisal A. could be heard having a one-sided conversation with what is believed to have been law enforcement engaged in negotiating with him to end the standoff. He was also heard ranting about religion and said he did not want anyone to get hurt.

He demanded to speak to a US federal inmate, the Pakistani neuroscientist Aafia Siddiqui. She is alleged to have ties to al-Qaeda and was convicted of firing at US army officers in Afghanistan. 

Siddiqui's lawyer and family condemned Saturday's incident.

Malik Faisal A. had claimed she was his "sister," though her brother said through various associates that he was not involved in the incident.

Malik Faisal A. had demanded Siddiqui's release and to speak with her during the hourslong hostage standoff. He was shot and killed after the last of the hostages was rescued.

FBI Special Agent in Charge Matt DeSarno said the hostage-taker was emotionally invested in Siddiqui's case, not anything in particular about the local Jewish community.

DeSamo said the investigation "would have global reach."

In London, the Metropolitan Police said they were in contact with US authorities regarding the case.

On Sunday, the hostage-taker's brother Gulbar said in a Facebook statement that Malik Faisal A. was from the town of Blackburn, north of Manchester, England, and had mental health issues. He said the family spent Saturday "liaising with Faisal, the negotiators, FBI etc." at the Blackburn police station.

Gulbar wrote: "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."

Editor's note: Deutsche Welle follows the German press code, which stresses the importance of protecting the privacy of suspected criminals or victims and obliges us to refrain from revealing full names in such cases. 

jsi, ar/fb (AP, Reuters)

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