Texas synagogue siege: Rabbi taken hostage by British man escaped by throwing a chair at his captor
A rabbi taken hostage at a Texas synagogue by a British man managed to escape after throwing a chair at his captor.
Charlie Cytron-Walker told how he and the other three hostages managed to escape the building without a shot being fired after a 10-hour armed stand-off in Colleyville, Texas, on Saturday night.
Malik Faisal Akram, originally from Blackburn in Lancashire, was shot dead after the FBI entered the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue.
Mr Cytron-Walker told CBS News: “The last hour or so of the stand-off (Akram) wasn’t getting what he wanted, he was getting… it didn’t look good, it didn’t sound good.
“We were terrified.
“When I saw an opportunity, where he wasn’t in a good position, I made sure the two gentleman who were with me… were ready to go.
“I told them to go, I threw a chair at the gunman, I headed for the door, and all three of us were able to get out.”
One hostage was released six hours into the siege before Mr Cyton-Walker and the others were able to escape hours later.
All of the hostages were unharmed in the stand-off.
‘I knew my brother had no chance’
The gunman’s brother, Faisal Akbar, says he spoke to his sibling by phone during the seige.
He said his brother told him: “I’ll release these Jewish guys, I just want them to bring Aafia Siddiqui over here. I want them to bring her here and I’ll release these guys.”
Mr Akbar said: “I went into a shock, my mind was blown. I knew at that point – my brother has no chance.
“He was telling me “I’ve come to die.”
“I tried to convince him, said think about your kids, your mum and dad. But his mind was made up. He wanted her released.
“At no point did he say he’s gonna harm these guys, that’s not my brother. He said to us he’s got a bomb, but I knew he was lying. I knew he wasn’t going to get out of there alive – his intention was to die.”
He said his brother was on the phone with his children when he was shot: “Why did they have to kill him? They didn’t need to do that,” he added.
“When we bring my brother’s body back, I’m expecting there to be 10 or 12 gunshot wounds in him,” he said.
Arrived in the US before New Year
Sky News understands Akram arrived in the US via New York’s JFK International Airport shortly before the New Year before buying the handgun he used in the siege.
Home Secretary Priti Patel has tweeted to say she has spoken with US Homeland Security secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and “offered the full support and cooperation of the British police and security services” after the “deeply troubling incident”.
She also told the House of Commons today: “Just prior to questions this afternoon I had a bilateral call with my counterpart for homeland security in the US.
“We are working with the FBI, in fact we have been since the incident took place, and there’s a great deal of intelligence-sharing and work taking place on this.
“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, and this is a live investigation so I am unable to speak about the specifics.”
Ms Patel’s call with Mr Mayorkas came after two men were arrested in south Manchester on Sunday following the stand-off.
Two teenagers arrested in Manchester
Greater Manchester Police (GMP) said the teenagers, whose ages and genders they did not immediately confirm, remain in custody for questioning.
GMP said police forces in the region are liaising with local communities to put in place any measures to provide further reassurance.
Akram’s family have said they were “absolutely devastated” by what had happened and “do not condone any of his actions”, according to a statement which had been shared on the Blackburn Muslim Community Facebook page.
The statement, attributed to Akram’s brother Gulbar, who said he had been involved in the negotiating with his sibling from the UK during the siege, added that the hostage-taker “was suffering from mental health issues”.
‘An act of terror’
US President Joe Biden branded the incident “an act of terror”.
In an update to reporters on Sunday, Mr Biden said while he did not have all the details it was believed Akram had “got the weapons on the street”, adding: “He purchased them when he landed.”
He said there were “no bombs that we know of”, and that Akram is thought to have “spent the first night in a homeless shelter”.
Akram is said to have demanded the release of Pakistani neuroscientist Aafia Siddiqui, who was convicted of trying to kill US army officers in Afghanistan, and is in prison in Texas.
Speaking to reporters after the incident, FBI special agent in charge Matt DeSarno said they believed the man was “singularly focused on one issue and it was not specifically related to the Jewish community”, and added they will continue to “work to find motive”.