Faisal Akram: Texas synagogue hostage taker twice referred to government counter-extremism program


The British man who was shot after taking hostages at a US synagogue was reported to a counter-extremism program twice in the years before the attack.

Faisal Akram, 44, was referred to Prevent in 2016 and then in 2019, The Independent understand.

He was not referred to the Channel program, which sees people matched with intervention providers, in either case.

Prevent is facing a long-delayed official review, after years of concern over its effectiveness and allegations of discrimination and stifling of free speech.

In 2020 Akram was investigated by MI5 but was not deemed an imminent threat and the investigation was terminated – leaving him in a pool of over 40,000 closed subjects of interest.

Questions remain unanswered about how Akram, who also had prior criminal convictions, was able to obtain a visa and get to his target in Texas.

The father of six, from Blackburn, was shot dead by law enforcement after taking hostages at the Congregation Beth Israel Synagogue in Colleyville, Texas on January 15.

Akram was known to Lancashire Local Police for previous criminal offenses and in 2001 he was banned from Blackburn Magistrates’ Court after speaking out about the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

He has been linked to the Blackburn, Burnage and Manchester areas and flew into New York’s John F Kennedy International Airport around two weeks before the attack.

President Joe Biden said he spent at least one night at a homeless shelter and bought the gun used in the attack “on the street”.

He called the incident “an act of terror” and said Akram made “anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli comments.”

One hostage was freed after about six hours and three others managed to escape after a rabbi threw a chair at Akram.

(OurCalling, LLC via AP)

He was shot dead by US law enforcement at the end of the 10 a.m. standoff.

Part of the incident was streamed live on Facebook, having been filmed during the synagogue’s routine broadcast of its Shabbat morning service, but was taken offline by the social media giant.

Akram could be heard talking on the phone with what appeared to be an FBI negotiator and family members.

“Don’t cry over me, have a party,” he said at one point. “I have hostages and I’m surrounded and I’m going to die.”

He demanded the release of Pakistani neuroscientist Aafia Siddiqui, who was convicted of attempting to kill US army officers in Afghanistan and is in prison in Texas.

His case has become a cause celebre among terrorist groups including al-Qaeda and Isis, and his release is among demands listed by former hostage takers in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Algeria and elsewhere.

A recording obtained by the Jewish Chronicle showed Akram raving about Jews and American military intervention in countries like Afghanistan, as his brother begged him to give up and release the captives.

Gulbar Akram urged his brother to lay down his arms saying to his brother, “You don’t need to do this. Why do you do that? Just wrap it up. You’ll need some time, then you’ll be out.

Law enforcement continues to investigate the hostage-taking incident at the Congregation Beth Israel Synagogue in Colleyville, Texas, U.S., January 16, 2022

(EPA)

“Those guys you got there, they’re innocent people, man,” Gulbar pleaded.

In response, Akram became increasingly agitated and said he hoped American authorities would notice the Jewish hostages and release Aafia Siddiqui.

Akram said he had prayed for the attack for two years and was ready to become a “martyr”.

The FBI, with the support of British counter-terrorism police, is investigating why Akram targeted the synagogue and the motivations behind the hostage-taking.

Counter Terror Policing North West is interviewing two men who were arrested Thursday in connection with the attack.

The unit previously arrested two teenagers in Manchester as part of the investigation, but later released them without charge.

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