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Texas synagogue hostage-taker killed by multiple gun shots

Malik Faisal Akram
Posted at 4:47 PM, Jan 21, 2022

COLLEYVILLE, Texas (AP) -- The gunman who held four people captive at a Texas synagogue in a 10-hour standoff that ended with the hostages escaping and an FBI tactical team rushing in was killed by multiple gunshot wounds, according to a medical examiner, who ruled the death a homicide.

The Tarrant County Medical Examiner released initial information from the autopsy of Malik Faisal Akram on Friday, six days after the 44-year-old British citizen took hostages during morning services at Congregation Beth Israel in the Dallas-area suburb of Colleyville.

In Texas, a death being ruled a homicide indicates that one person was killed by another but does not necessarily mean the killing was a crime.

Matt DeSarno, the FBI's special agent in charge in Dallas, said at a news conference Friday that Akram's death "was a result of the deadly force used by the FBI."

DeSarno, who had attracted attention on Saturday night for saying that the hostage-taker was focused on an issue not specifically connected to the Jewish community, took pains on Friday to stress that the FBI regarded the episode as an act of terrorism that threatened the Jewish community and "intentionally targeted" a house of worship. The act, he said, "was committed by a terrorist espousing an anti-Semitic worldview."

DeSarno said Akram is believed to have selected the synagogue because it is closest to a federal prison in nearby Fort Worth that houses a "convicted terrorist" with suspected al-Qaida links. During negotiations, he demanded the release of that prisoner in exchange for letting the hostages free. Though he did not identify the prisoner, law enforcement officials have identified her as Aafia Siddiqui, who is serving an 86-year prison sentence after being convicted of shooting at American military personnel after being detained in Afghanistan.

Siddiqui's attorney said the prisoner had no connection to Akram.

DeSarno provided additional details about the demands Akram made during protracted negotiations with the FBI, as well as the final moments of a crisis that ended with FBI agents fatally shooting him. As the night stretched on, and as Akram became more combative with the hostages and less cooperative, DeSarno authorized his teams to enter the synagogue -- and almost simultaneously, the hostages inside decided it was time to make a move for it as well.

Akram released a hostage shortly after 5 p.m. but those remaining later said he became more belligerent and threatening as the night wore on. The standoff ended around 9 p.m. after Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker said he threw a chair at Akram and he and the two other remaining hostages fled.

Video of the standoff's end from Dallas TV station WFAA showed people running out a door of the synagogue, and then a man holding a gun opening the same door just seconds later before he turned around and closed it. Moments later, several shots and then an explosion could be heard. The medical examiner determined that Akram died at 9:22 p.m.

Akram was from the English industrial city of Blackburn. His family said he had been "suffering from mental health issues."

He arrived in New York on a tourist visa about two weeks before the attack on the synagogue and cleared checks against law enforcement databases without raising any red flags, officials said. He spent time in Dallas-area homeless shelters before the attack.

The FBI is still investigating how Akram got the weapon, though it has had success in tracking his movements from the time he arrived in New York on Dec. 29 until his entrance into the synagogue on Jan. 15. DeSarno said Friday the FBI was still reviewing his devices and scrutinizing his contacts. He was not known to the FBI or U.S. intelligence communities until the hostage-taking, DeSarno said.