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Alleged hostage-taker at Texas synagogue was known to British authorities, sources say


(COLLEYVILLE, Texas) — The man who allegedly held people hostage at a Texas synagogue on Saturday may not have appeared on any American watch lists but he was known to British authorities, law enforcement sources told ABC News.

British authorities investigated Malik Faisal Akram, a 44-year-old British citizen, about a year ago and concluded he posed no threat that would have prohibited his travel from the United Kingdom to the United States, the sources said.

When asked for comment on Tuesday, a spokesperson for the U.K. Home Office told ABC News that it would be inappropriate to comment on an ongoing police investigation.

Akram was named the slain suspect in the hourslong hostage-taking incident at the Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas, about 27 miles northwest of Dallas. An armed man claiming to have planted bombs in the synagogue interrupted Shabbat services on Saturday just before 11 a.m. local time, taking a rabbi and three other people hostage, according to Colleyville Police Chief Michael Miller.

One hostage was released uninjured at around 5 p.m. CT on Saturday. An elite hostage rescue team deployed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation breached the synagogue at about 9 p.m. CT and saved the remaining hostages.

The alleged hostage-taker, identified by the FBI as Akram, died in a “shooting incident,” according to Miller and FBI Dallas Special Agent in Charge Matt DeSarno, neither of whom provided further details.

Multiple law enforcement sources told ABC News that the initial indication is that Akram was shot and killed by the FBI team. The FBI said in a statement Sunday that its Shooting Incident Review Team “will conduct a thorough, factual, and objective investigation of the events.”

A motive for the incident is under investigation.

During the negotiations with authorities, Akram “spoke repeatedly about a convicted terrorist who is serving an 86-year prison sentence in the United States on terrorisms charges,” the FBI said in a statement Sunday.

“This is a terrorism-related matter, in which the Jewish community was targeted, and is being investigated by the Joint Terrorism Task Force,” the agency added. “Preventing acts of terrorism and violence is the number one priority of the FBI. Due to the continuing investigation we are unable to provide more details at this time.”

Multiple law enforcement sources told ABC News that the suspect was demanding the release of Aafia Siddiqui, who is incarcerated at Carswell Air Force Base near Fort Worth, about 16 miles southwest of Colleyville. Siddiqui, who has alleged ties to al-Qaida, was sentenced to 86 years in prison after being convicted of assault as well as attempted murder of an American soldier in 2010.

Two teenagers were arrested in southern Manchester, England, on Sunday evening in connection with the probe and “remain in custody for questioning,” according to a statement from the Greater Manchester Police. Multiple law enforcement sources told ABC News that the teens are Akram’s children. Both have been released from custody without being charged after they were questioned by British counterterrorism officers, authorities said.

Akram was from the Blackburn area of Lancashire, about 20 miles northwest of Manchester, according to Assistant Chief Constable Dominic Scally of the Greater Manchester Police, who said in a statement Sunday that counterterrorism officers are assisting their U.S. counterparts in the investigation.

Akram also has ancestral ties to Jandeela, a village in Pakistan’s Punjab province, the local police chief told ABC News. He visited Pakistan in 2020 and stayed for five months, the police chief said, a duration that may have been necessitated by COVID-19 restrictions.

Akram has been separated from his wife for two years and has five children, according to the police chief.

After arriving in the U.S. last month via a flight from London to New York City, Akram stayed at homeless shelters at various points and may have portrayed himself as experiencing homelessness in order to gain access to the Texas synagogue during Shabbat services, multiple law enforcement sources told ABC News.

U.S. President Joe Biden, who called the hostage-taking incident “an act of terror,” told reporters Sunday that investigators suspect Akram purchased a gun on the street. While Akram is alleged to have claimed he had bombs, investigators have found no evidence that he was in possession of explosives, according to Biden.

ABC News’ Joseph Simonetti contributed to this report.

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