UPDATE: The FBI identified the hostage taker who was killed at a synagogue in Colleyville, Texas as Malik Faisal Akram, a 44-year-old British citizen. His brother, Gulbar, wrote on Facebook that the suspect suffered from mental illness. “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 brother wrote.
Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, one of four people taken hostage, credited security training that the congregation had received for helping the hostages get through the ordeal. “In the last hour of our hostage crisis, the gunman became increasingly belligerent and threatening,” Cytron-Walker said in a statement. “Without the instruction we received, we would not have been prepared to act and flee when the situation presented itself.” Michael Finfer, president of the Congregation Beth Israel, also issued a statement characterizing the hostage-taking as “a random act of violence.”
On Sunday, President Joe Biden called the hostage-taking “an act of terror,” and said Akram appears to have purchased weapons on the streets and may not have been in the United States for long. “He purchased them when he landed and it turns out there apparently were no bombs that we know of,” Biden said. “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.”
Original post on Jan. 16 at 9:21 a.m.: An FBI Hostage Rescue Team stormed a synagogue in Colleyville, Texas on Saturday night, ending a nearly 11-hour standoff. All three remaining hostages (one hostage had been released earlier in the day) were unharmed and the hostage-taker was dead. Officials have not made clear whether the hostage-taker was shot by law enforcement officers or whether the gunshot was self-inflicted. The hostage-taker claimed he had explosives, but officials haven’t said whether they found any weapons. “Prayers answered. All hostages are out alive and safe,” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said on Twitter.
Police had initially responded to the Congregation Beth Israel after reports that someone had interrupted morning service, which was being livestreamed, and taken hostages. It seems the motive behind taking hostages was to demand the release of Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist who was convicted of trying to kill U.S. officers in Afghanistan. The hostage-taker also said he wanted to speak to Siddiqui, who is in federal prison in Texas.
Before the livestream was cutoff, the hostage-taker could be heard referring to Siddiqui as his sister but the two were not related. “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,” said John Floyd, board chair for the Houston chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Although law enforcement has refused to give out the hostage-taker’s identity, there are hints he may have been British. Britain’s foreign office said it was aware of the death of a British man in Texas when asked about a report that the hostage-taker was British.
President Biden issued a statement late Saturday, praising the “courageous work” of everyone involved in the rescue operation. “There is more we will learn in the days ahead about the motivations of the hostage taker. But let me be clear to anyone who intends to spread hate — we will stand against anti-Semitism and against the rise of extremism in this country,” Biden said.