UK Authorities Arrest Two Teens Linked to Texas Synagogue Hostage Standoff
by Sharon Wrobel
British authorities have arrested two teenagers in connection with Saturday’s hostage siege in a synagogue in Colleyville, Texas, as the congregation’s rabbi revealed new details of the harrowing ordeal.
The arrest came hours after federal authorities on Sunday named the gunman who took four people hostage at Congregation Beth Israel synagogue as 44-year-old British citizen Malik Faisal Akram.
Greater Manchester Police said Sunday night that officers from the Counter Terror Policing (CTP) North West arrested two teenagers who remained in custody in South Manchester. No additional details were provided about the detainees’ identities or their connection to the hostage-taking.
Citing an unnamed senior law enforcement official, NBC News reported Monday that the two teens are Akram’s sons. The official said the pair had been in contact with the hostage-taker during the episode on Saturday.
Four hostages, including Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, were held by Akram for more than 10 hours at Congregation Beth Israel before being freed by the FBI’s hostage rescue team. The perpetrator, who was killed during the incident, is understood to have disguised himself as a person needing shelter to let himself into the synagogue.
“The last hour or so of the standoff, he wasn’t getting what he wanted. It didn’t look good. It didn’t sound good. We were terrified,” Cytron-Walker recounted in a Monday interview with CBS News. “When I saw an opportunity where he wasn’t in a good position, I made sure that the two gentlemen who were with me that they were ready to go. The exit wasn’t too far away. I told them to go, I threw a chair at the gunman and I headed for the door. And all three of us where able to get out without even a shot being fired.”
Cytron-Walker emphasized that, thanks to training he has previously received with the FBI, the Colleyville Police Department, the Anti-Defamation League and the Secure Community Network, he was better equipped to deal with a situation “when your life is threatened, and you need to do whatever you can to get to safety.”
The UK’s CTP North West and CTP international operations are part of the investigation into the incident being led by US authorities. UK police authorities disclosed that Akram is originally from the Blackburn area of Lancashire, about 25 miles north of Manchester.
Citing the Texas incident, the Blackburn Muslim Community stated that they “totally condemn any threats or attacks on innocent people. We stand in solidarity with people of all faiths as we believe they are all free to practice their religious beliefs freely without the fear of being attacked.”
The Muslim Council of Britain also condemned the hostage-taking as “completely unacceptable.”
The UK’s largest Muslim umbrella body added that Akram’s “actions fall way short of what is expected of a Muslim. His family and local community in Blackburn have also condemned the perpetrator’s action and are shocked and saddened to learn of this incident.”
UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss on Sunday called the incident an “act of terrorism and antisemitism.”
“We stand with US in defending the rights and freedoms of our citizens against those who spread hate,” Truss said.
British Home Secretary Priti Patel told members of parliament on Monday that the government continued to work with the FBI in its investigation.
“There’s a great deal of intelligence sharing and work taking place on this,” she said. “Of course, when it comes to our own domestic homeland, there are a range of measures that are being undertaken right now, including protective security for the Jewish community.”
Editor’s note: this article has been updated