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UK police arrest 2 teens over Texas synagogue attack, reportedly gunman’s sons

Law enforcement official cited saying Malik Faisal Akram was in contact with sons during crisis; FBI has previously said hostage-taker was acting alone

Congregation Beth Israel hostage taker, identified as 44-year-old British national Malik Faisal Akram. (Courtesy)
Congregation Beth Israel hostage taker, identified as 44-year-old British national Malik Faisal Akram. (Courtesy)

LONDON — The UK’s counter-terrorism police said it detained two teenagers on Sunday evening in connection with the hostage-taking incident by a British national in a Texas synagogue over the weekend, as a US report said the detainees are the sons of the attacker.

“Two teenagers were detained in South Manchester this evening. They remain in custody for questioning,” the Greater Manchester Police said in a statement.

The man who held four people hostage at a Texas synagogue was identified by US authorities as a British citizen, 44-year-old Malik Faisal Akram. Akram was killed at the end of the 11-hour siege in the small town of Colleyville on Saturday.

The FBI’s field office in Dallas had earlier said there was “no indication” that anyone else was involved in the attack on the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue.

Katie Chaumont, a spokeswoman for the FBI in Dallas, referred questions to police in Manchester.

According to NBC News, a senior law enforcement official identified the two teenagers as the sons of Akram. The pair were reportedly detained by a UK law enforcement group known as Counter Terror Policing North West.

US law enforcement vehicles sit in front of the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue on January 16, 2022 in Colleyville, Texas. (Brandon Bell/Getty Images/AFP)

The official told NBC that Akram was in touch with his two sons at some point during the hostage situation on Saturday in Texas.

The four hostages — including local rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker — were all freed unharmed Saturday night, prompting relief in the United States, where the Jewish community and Biden renewed calls to fight antisemitism.

“There is no question that this was a traumatic experience,” Cytron-Walker said in a statement Sunday.  “We are resilient and we will recover,” he added.

A man identifying himself as Akram’s brother Gulbar said in a Facebook post that the suspect had suffered from mental health problems.

“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,” Gulbar said in the post to a Muslim community Facebook page in Blackburn, in northwest England — where British police said Akram was from.

Gulbar added that he had been in touch with law enforcement in Texas and that his family hoped to get Akram’s body back to Britain for a funeral.

US President Joe Biden declined to speculate on the motive but appeared to confirm reports that the hostage-taker was seeking the release of convicted terrorist Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist known as “Lady Al-Qaeda.”

“This was an act of terror” committed by an assailant who apparently “insisted on the release of someone who’s been in prison for over 10 years,” Biden told reporters during a visit to a hunger relief organization in Philadelphia.

Law enforcement gathers at a local school near Congregation Beth Israel synagogue in Colleyville, Texas, January 15, 2022. (AP Photo/Gareth Patterson)

Britain’s foreign minister Liz Truss likewise Sunday condemned the hostage-taking as an “act of terrorism and antisemitism.”

Siddiqui, the first woman to be suspected by the United States of links to Al-Qaeda and a cause celebre in Pakistan and in South Asian jihadist circles, was detained in Afghanistan in 2008.

Two years later she was sentenced by a New York court to 86 years in prison for the attempted murder of US officers in Afghanistan.

She is currently being held at a prison in Fort Worth, Texas — about 20 miles (32 kilometers) away from the synagogue which Akram attacked.

Siddiqui’s lawyer has said she “has absolutely no involvement” in the hostage situation and condemned it.

Any links she may have to Akram remained unclear.

FBI special agent Matthew DeSarno told reporters in Colleyville after the standoff that the investigation would “have global reach.”

He said the suspect’s demands were “focused on one issue that was not specifically threatening to the Jewish community.”

Britain’s ambassador to Washington confirmed that British authorities were “providing our full support to Texas and US law enforcement agencies.”

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