Brit who took four hostages at Texas synagogue investigated by MI5 but cleared

18 January 2022, 11:40 | Updated: 18 January 2022, 12:06

Malik Faisal Akram, from Blackburn, was behind the attack on a synagogue in Texas
Malik Faisal Akram, from Blackburn, was behind the attack on a synagogue in Texas. Picture: Supplied

By Asher McShane

A British man who took four people hostage at a synagogue in Texas was known to MI5 but was assessed as posing no threat.

Four people held by Malik Faisal Akram in Colleyville near Dallas were freed unharmed on Saturday night.

Akram was able to fly to Texas where he was shot dead by the FBI. He carried out the anti-Semitic terrorist attack on Saturday, taking hostages in a synagogue in Texas.

It has emerged today he was investigated by MI5 just over a year ago but intelligence officers concluded he posed no threat.

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Police at the scene near the synagogue in Colleyville, a suburban city of Fort Worth in Texas
Police at the scene near the synagogue in Colleyville, a suburban city of Fort Worth in Texas. Picture: Alamy

In 2020 MI5 opened a short investigation into Akram, who lived in Blackburn, Lancashire, before shutting it down again after a little over a month.

He was no longer under investigation at the time he flew to the US.

A Whitehall source told the Telegraph: “Malik Akram was known to MI5 and was the subject of a short lead investigation in 2020.

“The investigation was opened in the second part of 2020 and was closed shortly afterwards with an assessment that there was no indication he presented a terrorist threat at that time.”

Yesterday, the rabbi caught up in the Texas synagogue stand-off has described how he escaped by throwing a chair at the British gunman.

Akram was shot dead when the FBI stormed Congregation Beth Israel synagogue in Colleyville on Saturday night.

Moments before, three "terrified" hostages had managed to escape from the building as the 44-year-old's behaviour became more erratic.

Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker told CBS: "The last hour or so of the standoff, he wasn't getting what he wanted.

"He was getting... it didn't look good. It didn't sound good. We were very... we were terrified.

"And when I saw an opportunity where he wasn't in a good position I asked, made sure that the two gentlemen who were still with me that they were ready to go.

"The exit wasn't too far away. I told them to go, I threw a chair at the gunman and I headed for the door. And all three of us were able to get out without even a shot being fired."

According to reports, he stayed at a homeless shelter and is believed to have bought a gun on the street before taking four people hostage at the synagogue on Saturday, one of whom was released after around six hours.

At one point he 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.

US President Joe Biden branded the incident "an act of terror" and UK police are working with authorities in America on the investigation.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said she had spoken to her US counterpart, Alejandro Mayorkas, and offered "the full support" of the UK police and security services in the investigation.

Two teenagers have been arrested in the UK as part of the inquiry, but Greater Manchester Police have refused to reveal what they have been detained on suspicion of, their ages or genders.

The FBI in Dallas had earlier said there was nothing to suggest a wider terror plot.