The family of a British citizen who held several people hostage in a synagogue in Colleyville, Texas, over the weekend has condemned the man’s actions and revealed he was suffering from mental health issues.
Authorities identified the hostage-taker as Malik Faisal Akram, a 44-year-old man from the large industrial town of Blackburn in Lancashire, England, according to Sky News. Akram reportedly arrived in the United States via New York’s JFK International Airport on Jan. 2.
Akram allegedly purchased the weapons he used in the hostage situation after arriving in the country, BBC reported, citing a statement from President Joe Biden.
On Jan. 15, Akram pretended to be a homeless man to attend a Saturday service at the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue in Colleyville. He was reportedly armed and claimed to have explosives with him.
Akram took four hostages during the attack, including local rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, France24 reported. One of the hostages was allegedly released six hours into the incident, while the remaining three hostages were freed hours later.
During the standoff, Akram demanded that U.S. officials release Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist whom the U.S. government suspected to have ties with Al-Qaeda. Known as “Lady Al-Queda,” she was detained in Afghanistan in 2008 and sentenced to 86 years in prison for the alleged attempted murder of U.S. officials in Afghanistan two years later. She is currently imprisoned in Fort Worth, Texas, around 24 miles southwest of Congregation Beth Israel synagogue. Witnesses claimed hearing Akram refer to Siddiqui as “sister” while making his demands, but John Floyd of the Council on American-Islamic Relations made it clear in a recent statement that Akram and the Pakistani neuroscientist are not related.
“This assailant has nothing to do with Dr. Aafia, her family, or the global campaign to get justice for Dr. Aafia,” Floyd said. “We want the assailant to know that his actions are wicked and directly undermine those of us who are seeking justice for Dr. Aafia.”
Akram was reportedly shot dead during the 11-hour standoff with authorities, but it is still unclear if he killed himself or if the FBI SWAT team killed him.
Akram’s family members were tapped to be part of the FBI negotiation team and “liaised” with him for hours. Akram’s brother, Gulbar, revealed that Akram “was suffering from mental health issues,” but his family was “confident that he would not harm the hostages.”
“Don’t believe the bullsh*t in the media, [the hostages] were released from the fire exit and not rescued,” Gulbar said.
Akram’s family apologized to the victims after the incident and said that they do not condone Akram’s actions, The Times of Israel reported.
“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,” Gulbar added.
The Blackburn Muslim Community in Britain confirmed Akram’s death in a now-deleted Facebook post.
“What happened yesterday at Congregation Beth Israel is a reminder that we must speak up and combat antisemitism and hate wherever it exists,” Vice President Kamala Harris said in a statement following the incident. “Everyone has a right to pray, work, study and spend time with loved ones not as the other – but as us.”
British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss also condemned the attack, describing it as an “act of terrorism and anti-Semitism” on Saturday, saying, “We stand with the U.S. in defending the rights and freedoms of our citizens against those who spread hate.”
Meanwhile, Counter Terror Policing North West officers detained two Manchester teens for questioning “as part of the ongoing investigation into the attack” in Colleyville. The Metropolitan Police’s counter-terror officers are reportedly in contact with “U.S. authorities and colleagues from the FBI.”