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FBI identifies man who took hostages at Texas synagogue

Congregation Beth Israel synagogue in Colleyville, Texas.Brandon Bell/Getty

The FBI’s hostage rescue team freed four hostages from a Texas synagogue Saturday night after a harrowing day of threats, negotiations, and prayers.

The suspect is dead, officials said, and his motives are still under investigation.

Here’s what we know so far.

What happened?

Malik Faisal Akram, 44, was identified by the FBI on Sunday as the man who took four people, including a rabbi, hostage Saturday morning at a service at Congregation Beth Israel. The Reform synagogue is in Colleyville, a city of about 26,000 residents that is about 15 miles northeast of Fort Worth, Texas.

The service had been livestreamed, and on the stream, Akram could be heard shouting about dying and demanding to get a woman he said was his sister on the phone. The immediate area was evacuated, and residents were instructed to remain home and avoid approaching the synagogue.


Over the course of the day, about 200 local, state and federal law enforcement officers converged on the synagogue, including a team of FBI agents and hostage negotiators who flew from Quantico, Virginia, authorities said. One male hostage was released about 5 p.m., police said. He was unharmed.

By around 9:30 p.m. local time, the hostage rescue team freed the remaining hostages from the synagogue safely. They were unharmed and did not need medical attention, authorities said.

Officials said negotiators had been speaking with Akram throughout the day.

“It’s very likely this situation would have ended very badly early on in the day had we not had professional, consistent negotiation with the subject,” said Matthew DeSarno, special agent in charge for the FBI field office in Dallas, at a news conference Saturday night.

Who is the suspect?

The suspect is dead, police said. The FBI Dallas field office Sunday confirmed the identity of the hostage taker as Akram, who was a British citizen.


“At this time, there is no indication that other individuals are involved,” the FBI said in a statement. The agency’s North Texas terrorism task force is following leads, the FBI said.

What was his motivation?

The Texas Department of Public Safety said Akram had demanded to see his “sister,” who may not actually be related to him and who is currently in U.S. federal custody for “terroristic events” in Afghanistan.

“The man claims he and his sister will be going to Jannah (Muslim belief of heaven) after he sees her,” the department said in a statement Saturday before the rescue.

Is the scene clear now?

Authorities said the area in and around the synagogue was still an active crime scene.

Although the situation had been resolved, the police chief, Michael C. Miller, said that an FBI evidence team and bomb technicians would be sweeping the area.

“I do not have any information right now that indicates that this is part of any kind of ongoing threat,” DeSarno said, adding: “We’ll continue to investigate the hostage taker. We’ll continue to investigate his contacts. Our investigation will have global reach.”

He said that his staff had contacted authorities in other countries.

Who were the hostages?

The four hostages were all adults, according to the police chief, although he did not specify their ages.

At a news conference Saturday night, authorities said the hostages were being interviewed by the FBI. One of them was the synagogue’s rabbi.


The lead rabbi of the synagogue, Charlie Cytron-Walker, was described as a unifying presence who had worked to improve interfaith relations.

“I am thankful and filled with appreciation for all of the vigils and prayers and love and support, all of the law enforcement and first responders who cared for us, all of the security training that helped save us,” he said in a Facebook post Sunday morning.

He added: “I am grateful that we made it out. I am grateful to be alive.”

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.