Biden calls Texas synagogue hostage situation ‘act of terror’

U.S.
President Joe Biden

FILE – President Joe Biden speaks about his infrastructure plan and his domestic agenda during a visit to the Electric City Trolley Museum in Scranton, Pa., on Oct. 20, 2021. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

Jan 16 (Reuters) – A hostage-taker killed at a Texas synagogue got his weapons off the street, President Joe Biden said on Sunday, a day after the safe release of four people held there by a gunman in what Biden called “an act of terror.”

The hostage incident in Colleyville, Texas, “was an act of terror; it was an act of terror,“ said Biden, who was in Philadelphia with first lady Jill Biden packing carrots and apples at a food bank in a visit to the city to honor the legacy of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.

Biden addressed the issue of measures needed to stop gun violence.

“The idea of background checks are critical, but you can’t stop something like this if someone’s on the streets buying something from somebody else on the streets,” he said.

An FBI Hostage Rescue Team on Saturday night stormed Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, ending a 10-hour standoff with police by the gunman, identified as 44-year-old British national Malik Faisal Akram, who disrupted a Sabbath service and took the rabbi and three other people hostage.

One hostage was released unharmed after being held for six hours and the remaining three were later safely freed by the FBI team.

Reporters at the scene late Saturday said they heard the sound of explosions, possibly flashbangs, and the sound of gunfire at the Reform Jewish synagogue in Colleyville, which is about 16 miles northeast of Fort Worth.

SWAT teams from the Colleyville Police Department responded to the synagogue after emergency calls began at about 10:41 a.m. during the Sabbath service, which was being broadcast online. FBI negotiators soon opened contact with Akram, who said he wanted to speak to a woman held in a federal prison.

Akram was heard having a one-sided phone conversation during a Facebook livestream of the service. Akram could be heard ranting and talking about religion and his sister, repeatedly saying he did not want to see anyone hurt, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported.

Akram claimed to be the brother of Pakistani neuroscientist Aafia Siddiqui, who is serving an 86-year U.S. prison sentence on her 2010 conviction for shooting at soldiers and FBI agents, and demanded that she be freed, a U.S. official told ABC News.

Siddiqui is being held at a federal prison in the Fort Worth area. A lawyer representing Siddiqui, Marwa Elbially, told CNN in a statement that the man was not Siddiqui’s brother and Siddiqui’s family condemned his “heinous” actions.

Although the Texas hostage situation appeared to be an isolated incident, synagogues in New York and elsewhere around the country ramped up security in response.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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