– Hostage-taking in a synagogue: the perpetrator was British
The hostage taker demanded the release of a Pakistani woman nicknamed “Lady Al-Qaeda”. US authorities on Sunday launched an “international scope” investigation.
The President of the United States appeared to confirm reports that the suspect had requested the release of Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani scientist sentenced in 2010 by a federal court in New York to 86 years in prison for trying to shoot soldiers. Americans while she was detained in Afghanistan.
“It was related to someone” who “has been in prison for ten years,” he said, without further details. “It was an act of terrorism”, he hammered, considering that the hostage taker had apparently obtained his weapons “in the street”.
The FBI said it identified the kidnapper as a 44-year-old British national named Malik Faisal Akram.
Hostages safe and sound
“At this stage, there is no indication of the involvement of anyone else,” US federal police said in a statement, adding only that investigators were continuing to “analyze the evidence at the synagogue” and that the investigations were continuing. The United Kingdom assured, through the voice of its ambassador in Washington Karen Pierce on Twitter, “to give all its support to the Texan and American police forces”.
The four hostages, including a respected local rabbi, Charlie Cytron-Walker, were all released unharmed on Saturday evening, sparking relief in the United States, with renewed calls to fight anti-Semitism, but also in Israel, where the drama was followed closely.
The hostage-taking ended with a police intervention, a loud bang and gunshots in the synagogue of the Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, a town of about 23,000 inhabitants about 40 km from Dallas. And by the death of the suspect — it is not known at this stage whether he committed suicide or was shot dead by law enforcement.
“We are going to investigate the hostage taker and his contacts”, during an investigation “of international scope”, declared Matt DeSarno, special agent of the FBI in Dallas, on the night of Saturday to Sunday. According to several American media, this man demanded in particular the release of Aafia Siddiqui, currently detained in a hospital-prison in Fort Worth, near Dallas. Jihadist movements had in the past called for his release.
She was the first woman to be suspected by the United States of links with Al-Qaeda, the Islamist network responsible for the attacks of September 11, 2001 in New York and against the Pentagon, which had earned her the nickname “Lady Al -Qaeda”. She “is absolutely not involved” in the hostage-taking, however, assured CNN in a statement to her lawyer. She confirmed that the man was not her client’s brother and that the latter condemned his actions.
“I will die”
Experts for their part pointed out that the word used by the man in Arabic was figurative and meant “sister” in the Islamic faith. This claim has not yet been officially confirmed by the authorities, who have also not said whether the man planted bombs in the synagogue.
Adding to the spectacularity of the hostage-taking, a Facebook live broadcast of the church service was underway when the kidnapper broke in, and continued for some time. “There is something wrong with America”, launched this man, according to this retransmission followed by AFP before its interruption.
“I’m going to die,” he also said, repeatedly asking an unidentified caller that “his sister” be on the phone to him. DeSarno did not elaborate on the suspect’s motives, explaining only that, based on lengthy and tense negotiations with law enforcement, he did not appear to want to specifically threaten the Jewish community.
President Biden nevertheless pledged in a statement to “address anti-Semitism and the rise of extremism in the country”. “This event is a stark reminder that anti-Semitism is still alive and that we must continue to fight it around the world,” Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett tweeted.