On Saturday, January 15, 2022, four hostages were being held at the Congregational Beth Israel in Texas.
At 10:41 AM local time, police received a 911 call that the synagogue’s Saturday service – which was being livestreamed through Facebook and Zoom – was interrupted by screaming as the suspect took four people, including a rabbi, hostage.
Colleyville police officers worked with the FBI Crisis Negotiation response team, which quickly made contact with a person inside the building. Around 5 PM local time, one male hostage was released uninjured. Over three hours later, a loud bang was heard, followed by a short burst of gunfire, which was reported to have been heard up to a third of a mile away.
All hostages are out alive and safe.
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) January 16, 2022
A few minutes later, at 9:33 PM local time, Texas Governor Greg Abbott tweeted, “Prayers answered. All hostages are out alive and safe.”
Officials revealed that the hostage was pronounced dead at the scene at a press conference held on Saturday night, but did not disclose the identity of the suspect until Sunday afternoon.
FBI Identity Suspect As 44-Year-Old British National
— Aditya Raj Kaul (@AdityaRajKaul) January 16, 2022
On Saturday, initial reports from several media news outlets falsely reported that the suspect was Aafia Siddiqui’s brother. Siddiqui is a Pakistani neuroscientist who is currently serving 86 years in prison after being convicted of attempting to kill Americans overseas in 2010. A jury found her guilty of attempted murder of U.S. government officials and assault against U.S. officers after she grabbed the firearm of a U.S. soldier and opened fire on the interrogation team after she had been detained for questioning.
The suspect has been identified as Malik Faisal Akram, a 44-year-old British national. As was first reported, Akram held the four people at the synagogue hostage in exchange for Siddiqui’s release. Akram also wanted to speak with Siddiqui, who is currently being held in a prison in Fort Worth, Texas.
Dallas FBI Chief Matthew DeSarno did not disclose how the hostage-taker died but said that the shooting would be reviewed by authorities.
Chairman of the Houston Board of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, John Floyd, said that they stood against the “antisemitic attack on a house of worship.” Floyd, who also represented some members of Siddiqui’s family, said that she and her family also condemned the attack.
In a statement, Floyd expressed that “Dr. Aafia’s family has always stood firm in advocating for the release of their sister from incarceration by legal and non-violent means only.” He added that the hostage situation “directly undermines those of us who are seeking justice for Dr. Aafia.”
Rabbi Taken Hostage Thanks Law Enforcement For The Rescue
Shortly after his release, the rabbi, named Charlie Cytron-Walker, took to Facebook to pen a touching tribute to law enforcement for saving his life.
“I am thankful and filled with appreciation for All of the vigils and prayers and love and support, All of the law enforcement and first responders who cared for us, All of the security training that helped save us,” he began.
“I am grateful for my family,” he continued. “I am grateful for the CBI Community, the Jewish Community, the Human Community. I am grateful that we made it out. I am grateful to be alive.”
The post gathered over seven thousand likes as many shared thoughts and prayers.
“Blessing to you and all your family and congregation,” one person wrote. “Stay home in the bosom of your beloved family today.”
“We are also very sorry that you and your congregants suffered through this terrifying experience,” another shared. “may you all be healed in body, mind, and spirit. With prayers and support from Maine.”
“So grateful that you are all alive and praying for you and your family as you process what was a horrendous trauma!” another shared. “Please give yourself time to heal. “So grateful for the security training that you had. So grateful to God Who was watching over you!”
“So glad you are all okay,” another wrote. “I don’t know how we can erase the trauma of the event from your memories- but may you, in time, remember that you were saved and so many people cared, and want you to have a good life!”