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British Police Arrest 2 Teens in Connection with US Synagogue Standoff


An FBI agent processes the scene in front of the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue, Jan. 16, 2022, in Colleyville, Texas, where a man held hostages for more than 10 hours Saturday.

Police in Britain announced late Sunday the arrests of two people in connection with the investigation of a hostage-taking at a synagogue in the U.S. state of Texas.

Greater Manchester Police said in a statement that Counter Terror Policing officers detained two teenagers in South Manchester and that they remained in custody for questioning. There were no details about any possible charges.

U.S. authorities earlier Sunday identified 44-year-old Malik Faisal Akram, a British citizen, as the man who took four people hostage at Congregation Beth Israel, near Fort Worth, Texas.

The standoff lasted for 10 hours before law enforcement commandos stormed the building. All the hostages were freed, and an FBI strategic weapons team shot Akram dead.

U.S. President Joe Biden praised the “courageous work” of the law enforcement agents and said antisemitism represented by the attack would not be tolerated.

“There is more we will learn in the days ahead about the motivations of the hostage taker,” Biden said. “But let me be clear to anyone who intends to spread hate -- we will stand against antisemitism and against the rise of extremism in this country.”

The FBI said in a statement there was no indication that anyone else was involved in the attack, but it didn't provide a possible motive.

Akram was heard ranting on a Facebook livestream of the synagogue service, demanding the release of a Pakistani neuroscientist who was convicted of trying to kill U.S. Army officers in Afghanistan.

Video from Dallas TV station WFAA showed people running out a door of the synagogue, and then a man holding a gun opening the same door just seconds later before he turned around and closed it. Moments later, several rounds of gunfire could be heard, followed by the sound of an explosion.

During a visit to a food pantry in Philadelphia on Sunday morning, Biden told reporters that Attorney General Merrick Garland “is focused and making sure that we deal with these kinds of acts.”

The Associated Press reported that investigators told it that Akram demanded the release of Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist suspected of having ties to al-Qaida and who is in a federal prison in Texas. Akram also said he wanted to be able to speak with her, according to the officials.

Siddiqui earned advanced degrees from Brandeis University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology before she was sentenced in 2010 to 86 years in prison on charges that she assaulted and shot at U.S. Army officers after being detained in Afghanistan two years earlier.

The punishment sparked outrage in Pakistan among political leaders and her supporters, who viewed her as victimized by the American criminal justice system.

During the incident, Marwa Elbially, her attorney, issued a statement condemning the hostage-taking.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said on Twitter that he had been monitoring the situation closely.

"This event is a stark reminder that antisemitism is still alive and we must continue to fight it worldwide," he wrote. Bennett said he was "relieved and thankful" that the hostages were rescued.

Ayaz Gul in Islamabad contributed to this report. Some material came from The Associated Press.