Britain failed to share intelligence on Texas synagogue terrorist, White House suggests

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Malik Faisal Akram had been referred to the Government's Prevent programme - OURCALLING, LLC./Reuters
Malik Faisal Akram had been referred to the Government's Prevent programme - OURCALLING, LLC./Reuters

The White House has suggested Britain failed to share intelligence on the Texas synagogue attacker after it emerged that he had been investigated by MI5 and had twice been referred to the Prevent counter-extremism programme.

President Joe Biden's press secretary said the US authorities were looking into how Malik Faisal Akram had managed to enter the United States despite numerous red flags being raised.

The extremist, 44, had been jailed three times in the UK for various offences including violence, and had made 11 trips to Pakistan between October 2007 and September 2020.

The Telegraph can also reveal that in 2016, following concern about his behaviour, he was referred to the Government's Prevent programme.

It is not clear how much he engaged in the programme, but three years later he was referred for a second time.

In 2020 an MI5 investigation was also launched after he became involved in an organisation shipping goods to Syria.

The case was closed, however, with the intelligence service concluding Akram posed no terrorist threat.

After flying to New York a few days after Christmas, he travelled across the country to Texas, where he held a Jewish congregation hostage at a local synagogue.

Security officials in the United States have demanded to know how Malik was allowed into the country given the numerous warning signs that ought to have been available.

US 'had no derogatory information on Akram'

Jen Psaki, Joe Biden's spokesman, said Akram had been checked against American databases "multiple times" before being granted entry to the country, suggesting the UK had failed to share intelligence.

She told reporters: "Our understanding - and, obviously, we’re still looking into this - is that he was checked against US government databases multiple times prior to entering the country, and the US government did not have any derogatory information about the individual in our systems at the time of entry."

Ms Psaki added the US was investigating further "to learn every possible lesson we can to prevent attacks like this in the future".

Senator Josh Hawley, a Republican representing Missouri, expressed alarm at the ease with which a British terrorist had been able to enter the United States.

Mr Hawley, who sits on the Senate's powerful Homeland Security Committee, demanded answers from the Biden administration by January 21 so that Congress could consider "remedial legislation".

In an open letter to the Biden administration, Mr Hawley said it was "past time" for the US to "begin conducting in-person vetting of immigrants to this country".

"It should now be clear that this is necessary to protect US citizens from terrorist attacks on US soil".

Akram, a father of six from Blackburn, was shot dead after the FBI stormed the Beth Israel synagogue.

The Telegraph can also reveal that Akram had a history of domestic violence and had even been issued with a court order.

In May 2016, around the time he was referred to Prevent, Malik was the subject of a Domestic Violence Protection Order, after launching a series of violent assaults on his wife, Farzana.

At a hearing at Preston Magistrates' Court, he was ordered to stay away from the family home in Blackburn and not contact his wife.

It followed a series of violent incidents between the couple who came from the same village in Pakistan and had an arranged marriage 17 years ago.

After the courts issued a civil order against Akram, his wife left Blackburn with their children and moved to another city.

Sources have said it was around that time Malik became more religious and changed his clothing and behaviour.

His arranged marriage took place in the village of Jandila around 70 miles southeast of Islamabad.

He remained a regular visitor to Pakistan, returning several times a year, where villagers said his behaviour had at times been bizarre and erratic.

Villagers thought Akram was 'not normal'

“You will find hardly anyone in the village who has not had some kind of tussle with him,” said one villager who declined to be named.

Another resident said: “Mostly people thought that he was not normal.”

Relatives of his wife said the couple's marriage broke down when he became violent toward her and she eventually reported him to the police.

It is understood she showed little emotion when informed of her husband's death. “When you end a relationship, you do not have the same connection,” explained one of the couple's relatives.

Akram became increasingly religious and would even encourage villagers to pray more and visit the mosque more regularly.

“Whenever he walked around the village, whenever he saw a gathering of people, he would go over to them and talk about religion,” recalled one resident.

At one point he built his own makeshift mosque from cane in one of his father's fields.

Akram had abandoned the school of Muslim worship followed by the rest of his family and the issue was one of a number of tensions with his father, Malik Muhammad Akram.

Two years ago Akram set fire to one of his father's cars in the village during a row. Residents said the pair had also quarrelled over Akram's desire to build a fish farm on his father's land.

Akram had dug out a large pond, only for his father to insist it was filled in again.

“He certainly had eccentric behaviour and we heard it was the same in the UK,” said one villager.

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