The brother of the UK man who took a rabbi and three congregants hostage at a Texas synagogue before being shot dead questioned how he was able to travel to the US – and said his sibling “was suffering from mental health issues.”
Malik Faisal Akram, 44, held the victims captive Saturday while demanding the release of Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist with suspected ties to al Qaeda who’s serving time at a federal prison in Texas, authorities said.
Akram was fatally shot by an FBI team after all four hostages were safely released from the synagogue.
The hostage-taker’s brother Gulbar demanded more information about how he “was allowed to get a visa and acquire a gun,” the Manchester Evening News reported.
“He’s known to police. Got a criminal record,” he told Sky News.
Gulbar said his family spent hours talking to his brother on Saturday in efforts to end the incident peacefully.
“Salaam family and friends, it is with great great sadness I will confirm my brother Faisal passed away in Texas, USA this morning,” Gulbar said in a statement posted on the Blackburn Muslim Community Facebook page.
“We are absolutely devastated as a family. We can’t say much now as there is an ongoing FBI investigation,” he wrote.
“We would like to say that we as a family do not condone any of his actions and would like to sincerely apologise wholeheartedly to all the victims involved in the unfortunate incident,” Gulbar wrote.
“Sitting in the incident room last night at Greenbank until the early hours liaising with Faisal, the negotiators, FBI etc and although my brother was suffering from mental health issues we were confident that he would not harm the hostages,” he wrote.
“At around 3am the first person was released then an hour later he released the other 3 people through the fire door unharmed. Don’t believed the bull— in the media they were released from the fire exit and not rescued,” Gulbar continued.
“A few minutes later a firefight was taking 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 wrote.
“The FBI are due to fly into the UK later today so we don’t have much else to share at the moment. Obviously our priority will be to get him back to the UK for his funeral prayers although we have been warned it could take weeks,” Gulbar added.
US authorities believe Akram arrived at JFK Airport in New York about two weeks ago with a visa and bought a handgun he used during a Shabbat morning service at the Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, ITV reported.
On Sunday, President Joe Biden said it was believed that Akram had “got the weapons on the street,” adding that he bought them after he landed in New York City.
The president said Akram is also believed to have “spent the first night in a homeless shelter.”
Biden declared the hostage situation an “act of terror,” but said that authorities “just don’t have enough facts” to determine why Akram targeted the synagogue.
Two teens in the UK were arrested late Sunday by Greater Manchester Police and were being questioned by investigators in connection with the incident, though it was not immediately clear what connection they had to it.