Synagogue Hostage-Taker Had ‘Mental Health Issues,’ Brother Says

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Brandon Bell / Getty Images
Brandon Bell / Getty Images

The feds on Sunday identified the gunman who was shot dead after taking four hostages in a dramatic 10-hour standoff at a Texas synagogue as 44-year-old Malik Faisal Akram.

On Saturday morning, the British national held four people captive at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, at one point demanding the release of Pakistani neuroscientist Aafia Siddiqui, who was convicted and imprisoned for trying to kill U.S. Army officers in Afghanistan. The standoff ended hours later, around 9 p.m., when an elite FBI SWAT team stormed the synagogue, killing Akram. All four hostages—including the congregation’s rabbi, Charlie Cytron-Walker—made it out safely.

It remains unclear why Akram, originally from Blackburn, Lancashire, targeted the synagogue, but President Joe Biden—decrying the siege as “an act of terror”—said he’d only spent a couple weeks in the U.S. and slept in a homeless shelter on his first night in the country. Biden added that he “allegedly” bought the gun used in the attack “on the street.”

On Sunday morning, the Blackburn Muslim Community shared a statement from Akram’s brother, identified as Gulbar Akram, who said his sibling suffered from “mental health issues.” He added that his family had been working with the feds and hostage negotiators as the crisis unfolded.

“We would like to say that we as a family do not condone any of his actions and would like to sincerely apologize wholeheartedly to all the victims involved in the unfortunate incident,” he wrote.

In a statement released on Sunday through a spokesperson, Cytron-Walker said Akram had become “increasingly belligerent and threatening” in the last hour of the crisis, and he was grateful for the “multiple” security courses his congregation has completed.

“Without the instruction we received, we would not have been prepared to act and flee when the situation presented itself,” he said.

Hostages Freed, Suspect Dead in Synagogue Siege

Hours before the FBI revealed Akram’s identity, a spokesperson for the British Foreign Office said they were “aware of the death of a British man in Texas and are in contact with the local authorities.”

“The FBI’s Evidence Response Team (ERT) will continue processing evidence at the synagogue,” the FBI wrote in its release. “At this time, there is no indication that other individuals are involved. The FBI’s North Texas Joint Terrorism Task Force (NTJTTF), which includes member agencies from across the region, will continue to follow investigative leads. An FBI Shooting Incident Review Team (SIRT) will conduct a thorough, factual, and objective investigation of the events.”

In his statement, Gulbar said his family was “liaising with Faisal, the negotiators, FBI” until the early hours of the morning. “And although my brother was suffering from mental health issues we were confident that he would not harm the hostages,” he wrote. “At around 3 a.m. the first person was released then an hour later he released the other 3 people through the fire door unharmed.”

“A few minutes later a firefight has taken place and he was shot and killed… There was nothing we could have said to him or done that would have convinced him to surrender,” he added.

During the siege, Akram repeatedly asked to speak to his “sister,” leading some to mistakenly believe he was Aafia Siddiqui’s brother, architect Muhammad Siddiqui. Through their lawyers, both Siddiqi and her actual brother condemned and distanced themselves from Akram’s actions.

In his statement, Cytron-Walker called the incident a “traumatic experience”—but insisted his “resilient” community would recover.

“We appreciate all the love, prayers and support from our local community and through the world,” he said. “We are grateful for the outcome. We are resilient and we will recover.”

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