A British-born jihadist terrorist entered the Beth Israel Synagogue in Colleyville, Texas, on Saturday during services and held the rabbi and three worshipers hostage for nearly 11 hours, before an FBI hostage-rescue SWAT team from Washington rescued them unharmed and the terrorist was dead.
“Prayers answered. All hostages are out alive and safe,” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott posted on Twitter Saturday night.
The attacker was revealed as 44-year-old Malik Faisal Akram, who demanded from hostage negotiators during the long siege to free terrorist Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani woman terrorist serving an 86-year sentence in a Texas prison for attempting to murder US soldiers in Afghanistan.
Akram had apparently targeted the Beth Israel Synagogue for his antisemitic assault upon landing at the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport and finding it was the nearest Jewish house of worship.
The Shabbat service, a bar mitzvah celebration, was livestreamed to the congregation by Zoom, as part of social-distancing measures during the pandemic. Congregants watched in mounting horror from home until the stream was abruptly cut off during hostage negotiations.
Akram claimed to have a bomb and threatened to kill the hostages and himself if Siddiqui were not released. Although he claimed to want to free his “sister,” Siddiqui’s family later denied any relationship with the terrorist.
“There’s no doubt that the underlying whole premise of yesterday was antisemitism,” Union for Reform Judaism President Rabbi Rick Jacobs said during a Sunday interview on MSNBC. “The hostage-taker didn’t go to McDonald’s, didn’t go to some random place, and that is part of the story of antisemitism, to single Jews out.”
Jewish communities across the US were put on heightened alert during the incident and guards were reinforced at other high-profile synagogues across the nation as a precaution over the weekend.
“By all available information, this was a well-planned scenario designed to gain entrance into the synagogue by posing as a homeless man,” Simon Wiesenthal Center CEO and founder Rabbi Marvin Hier and Abraham Cooper, associate dean and director of global social action, wrote in a statement published in the Fort Worth Star Telegram. “The terrorist and those who planned this attack counted on the kindness of a rabbi to gain entry into the synagogue.”