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Friday, December 2, 2022

The Colleyville Hostage Crisis: Aafia Siddiqui’s Continued Pertinence in Jihadi Terror Plots against the United States

Prior to the attack, Akram’s longstanding financial problems, criminal record, and mental health issues were well-known to the local community.

On the morning of Saturday, January 15, 2022, at 10:00 AM local time, a man later identified as 44-year-old British national Malik Faisal Akram entered Congregation Beth Israel, a Jewish synagogue in Colleyville, Texas, and took four individuals hostage at gunpoint during a livestreaming of Shabbat morning services. Local police arrived at the scene at approximately 12:30 PM. During negotiations with police, Akram demanded the release of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist who was convicted in 2010 of attempting to murder U.S. military personnel in Afghanistan. Siddiqui is currently serving an 86-year sentence at a federal prison in nearby Fort Worth, Texas.

Throughout the hostage crisis, Akram espoused anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, told hostages that he expected to be “going to Jannah [heaven]” after the conclusion of the standoff, and repeatedly demanded to talk to Siddiqui. At 5:00 PM, Akram released one hostage but continued to hold three others as negotiations with the FBI, local police, and his own family continued. One hostage—the congregation’s rabbi, Charlie Cytron-Walker—reported that Akram became “increasingly belligerent and threatening” in the later parts of the standoff. At around 9:00 PM, two FBI Hostage Rescue Teams (HRT), which had arrived on the scene earlier that day after being mobilized by the FBI in the early hours of the crisis, prepared to breach the synagogue. Shortly thereafter, at 9:33PM local time, Texas Governor Greg Abbott and local police sources confirmed that the HRT breached the synagogue and that the remaining hostages escaped unharmed. During the rescue, Akram was shot and killed by HRT officers. In total, the standoff lasted 11 hours.

The FBI’s Joint Terrorism Taskforce is currently investigating the Colleyville hostage crisis as “a terrorism-related matter, in which the Jewish community was targeted.” In the weeks following the attack, law enforcement investigations in the United States and United Kingdom and reporting by international media have uncovered additional information about Akram’s background, motives, planning process, and travel from the United Kingdom. Prior to the attack, Akram’s longstanding financial problems, criminal record, and mental health issues were well-known to the local community in his hometown of Blackburn, as was his involvement in the conservative Islamist Tablighi Jamaat movement. According to media reports, he was a known figure to British counterterrorism authorities, having been the subject of a 2001 court exclusion order for making threatening comments about the 9/11 attacks, two referrals to the British counter-extremism program PREVENT in 2016 and 2019, and a 2020 counterterrorism investigation by MI5.

Read more at CTC Sentinel

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