Texas synagogue siege: Rabbi threw chair at gunman to help two hostages escape

·3 min read
Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker threw a chair at the hostage-taker. (BBC/CBS)
Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker threw a chair at the hostage-taker. (BBC/CBS)

The rabbi at a synagogue in Texas who was taken hostage by a British gunman on Saturday has described how he threw a chair to distract his attacker so he could escape.

Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker and the other hostages got away after a 10-hour siege in the town of Colleyville.

British hostage-taker Malik Faisal Akram, originally from Blackburn in Lancashire, was shot dead after an FBI SWAT team entered the building.

Rabbi Cytron-Walker told CBS: "When I saw an opportunity, when he wasn't in a good position, I made sure the gentlemen were still with me, they were ready to go.

"The exit wasn't too far away, I told them to go."

He then threw the chair to cause a distraction before they all escaped.

All four hostages held at Congregation Beth Israel were unharmed, with one being released six hours into the siege.

Watch: Suspect dead and hostages released from stand-off at synagogue in Texas

US president Joe Biden branded the incident “an act of terror” and UK police are working with authorities in the US on the investigation.

Greater Manchester Police (GMP) announced that officers from Counter Terror Policing North West had made two arrests in south Manchester on Sunday evening.

They said the teenagers, whose ages and genders they did not immediately confirm, remain in custody for questioning.

On Monday, home secretary Priti Patel added she had spoken to her US counterpart Alejandro Mayorkas and offered “the full support” of the UK police and security services in the investigation.

Akram’s family said they were “absolutely devastated” by what had happened and “do not condone any of his actions”, according to a statement which had been shared on the Blackburn Muslim Community Facebook page.

The statement, attributed to Akram’s brother, said he had been involved in negotiating from the UK with his sibling during the ordeal, adding the hostage-taker “was suffering from mental health issues”.

SWAT team members deploy near the Congregation Beth Israel Synagogue in Colleyville, Texas, some 25 miles (40 kilometers) west of Dallas, on January 15, 2022. - The SWAT police operation was underway at the synagogue where a man claiming to be the brother of a convicted terrorist has reportedly taken several people hostage, police and media said. (Photo by Andy JACOBSOHN / AFP) (Photo by ANDY JACOBSOHN/AFP via Getty Images)
FBI SWAT team members deploy near the Congregation Beth Israel Synagogue in Colleyville, Texas. (Getty)
COLLEYVILLE, TX - JANUARY 15: An armored truck is parked in the parking lot of Colleyville Middle School on January 15, 2022 in Colleyville, Texas. Police responded to a hostage situation at Beth Israel Congregation synagogue after reports of a man with a gun was holding hostages. (Photo by Emil Lippe/Getty Images)
An armoured truck is parked in the parking lot of Colleyville Middle School. (Getty)

US officials believe Akram had a visa, arrived at John F Kennedy International Airport in New York around two weeks ago and bought a handgun used in the incident.

In an update to reporters on Sunday, Biden said while he did not have all the details it was believed Akram had “got the weapons on the street”, adding: “He purchased them when he landed.”

He said there were “no bombs that we know of”, and that Akram is thought to have “spent the first night in a homeless shelter”.

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Condemning what had happened, the statement from Akram’s family said: “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.”

Akram is said to have demanded the release of Pakistani neuroscientist Aafia Siddiqui, who was convicted of trying to kill US army officers in Afghanistan, and is in prison in Texas.

Speaking to reporters after the incident, FBI special agent in charge Matt DeSarno said they believed the man was “singularly focused on one issue and it was not specifically related to the Jewish community”, and added they will continue to “work to find motive”.

Confirming that the hostage-taker had died, he said there would be “an independent investigation of the shooting incident”.

Watch: Two teenagers held in Manchester after ‘act of terror’ at US synagogue

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