Two UK teenagers arrested over Texas synagogue hostage taking

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By Euronews  with AP
Law enforcement officials gather at a local school near the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue on Jan. 15, 2022 in Colleyville, Texas.
Law enforcement officials gather at a local school near the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue on Jan. 15, 2022 in Colleyville, Texas.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Gareth Patterson

Two teenagers have been arrested in the UK as part of the investigation into a hostage-taking incident in a Texas synagogue, authorities have confirmed.

Four people were held hostage at Congregation Beth Israel, in Colleyville, on Saturday by an armed captor identified as 44-year-old British national Malik Faisal Akram.

Akram was killed when the 10-hour standoff came to an end with an FBI SWAT team rushing into the building after the last hostages ran out at around 9 p.m.

Greater Manchester Police announced overnight on Monday that "two teenagers were detained" and "remained in custody for questioning."

They had earlier confirmed that Akram was "originally from the Blackburn area of Lancashire", about 30 kilometres north of Manchester.

US President Joe Biden called the episode an "act of terror". Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker credited security training that his suburban Fort Worth congregation has received over the years for getting him and the other three hostages through the ordeal, which he described as traumatic.

“In the last hour of our hostage crisis, the gunman became increasingly belligerent and threatening,” Cytron-Walker said in a statement. “Without the instruction we received, we would not have been prepared to act and flee when the situation presented itself."

Akram could be heard ranting on a Facebook livestream of the services and demanding the release of Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist suspected of having ties to al-Qaida who was convicted of trying to kill U.S. Army officers in Afghanistan.

Speaking to reporters in Philadelphia on Sunday, Biden said Akram allegedly purchased a weapon on the streets.

Federal investigators believe Akram purchased the handgun used in the hostage taking in a private sale, according to a person familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing.

Akram arrived in the U.S. at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York about two weeks ago on a tourist visa, according to a U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the information was not intended to be public

Akram arrived in the U.S. recently on a tourist visa from Great Britain, according to a U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the information was not intended to be public. London’s Metropolitan Police said in a statement that its counter-terrorism police were liaising with U.S. authorities about the incident.

FBI Special Agent in Charge Matt DeSarno said the hostage-taker was specifically focused on an issue not directly connected to the Jewish community. It wasn't clear why Akram chose the synagogue, though the prison where Saddiqui is serving her sentence is in Fort Worth.