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Texas Synagogue Hostage Taker Stayed in Homeless Shelters

An armed man who took four people hostage during a 10-hour standoff at a Texas synagogue had spent time in homeless shelters in the two weeks leading up to the attack, and was dropped off at one by someone he appeared to know, the Associated Press reports. Malik Faisal Akram, a 44-year-old British national who authorities identified as the hostage-taker, was brought to the shelter in downtown Dallas on Jan. 2 by a man who hugged him and had conversations with him, said Wayne Walker, CEO and pastor of OurCalling, which provides services to homeless people. Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker said that he’d let Akram into Congregation Beth Israel on Saturday morning because he appeared to need shelter. The synagogue is in Colleyville, a city of about 26,000, 30 miles northwest of Dallas. Cytron-Walker said the man wasn’t threatening or suspicious at first, but later he heard a gun click as he was praying.

Akram stayed three nights between Jan. 6 and Jan. 13 at Union Gospel Mission Dallas, said the homeless shelter’s CEO, Bruce Butler. The FBI called the ordeal “a terrorism-related matter, in which the Jewish community was targeted” and said the Joint Terrorism Task Force is investigating. Akram spoke repeatedly during negotiations about a prisoner who is serving an 86-year sentence in the U.S. 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. The investigation stretched to England, where police in Manchester announced that two teenagers were in custody in connection with the standoff. Police tweeted that counter-terrorism officers had made the arrests but did not say whether the pair faced any charges. Akram was under investigation by the British intelligence agency MI5 as a possible Islamist terrorist threat as recently as 2020, The Guardian reports. The investigation was closed after officers concluded that Akram posed no threat, and as a result he was able to travel freely to the U.S. and purchase a gun.


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