Monday, 16 May 2022 - 15 of Iyyar, 5782
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Counter-terror authorities in Britain arrest two people in connection with hostage taking in Texas synagogue

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The arrests came shortly after the attacker, who was fatally shot by police following an 11-hour siege, was named as Malik Faisal Akram, 44, of Blackburn, Lancashire, United Kingdom. The FBI’s field office in Dallas had said earlier that Akram appeared to have acted alone.

“With threats against synagogues and other Jewish institutions arguably at an all-time high, it is imperative that the federal government provides appropriate levels of funding to mitigate the threat,” said Greenblatt. “As we saw in Texas, it is urgently critical for Congress to increase funding to protect these non-profit organizations from future acts of terrorism or hate-motivated violence,” said the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).

The group urged the Senate to immediately confirm Dr. Deborah Lipstadt as the State Department’s special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism.

British counter-terror officers have arrested two people in connection with the hostage taking in the Beth Israel synagogue in Colleyville, Texas, on Saturday.

The arrests came shortly after the attacker, who was fatally shot by police following an 11-hour siege, was named as Malik Faisal Akram, 44, of Blackburn, Lancashire. The FBI’s field office in Dallas had said earlier that Akram appeared to have acted alone.

Akram disrupted the livestreamed Shabbat religious service at Congregation Beth Israel on Saturday morning and demanded the release of Aafia Siddiqui, who is serving an 86-year US prison sentence after being convicted in 2010 of shooting at US soldiers and FBI agents in Afghanistan. Saddiqui reportedly had links to Al Qaeda and  railed against Jews during her trial and who had blamed her guilty verdict on Israel.

British Foreign Minister Liz Truss condemned the attack, calling it an “act of terrorism and anti-Semitism.”

My thoughts are with the Jewish community and all those affected by the appalling act in Texas. We condemn this act of terrorism and anti-semitism.

Karen Pierce, British ambassador to Washington, condemned “this shocking act on people practicing their faith” and said that “the UK & US stand shoulder to shoulder in defiance of terrorism and in defense of the fundamental rights and freedoms of our citizens.”

A man identifying himself as Akram’s brother, Gulbar Akram, posted on Facebook about the incident, claiming that his brother had suffered from mental illness. He apologized “wholeheartedly to all the victims involved in the unfortunate incident” and said that “any attack on any human being – be it a Jew, Christian or Muslim etc. – is wrong and should be condemned.”

Gulbar added that he had been in contact with American law enforcement and that the FBI were due to fly into the United Kingdom to continue its investigation. He also said the family was working to get Akram’s body back so they could hold his funeral in Britain.

The post was later removed from Facebook.

Jonathan A. Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League,  issued the following statement:

‘’We are deeply grateful to Texas law enforcement and the FBI for their work in ending the tense hostage situation in Colleyville and for the safe return of the hostages to their families. We are also thankful for the support of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and the many other public officials who handled this situation with the gravity it deserved.’’

.He added, ‘’this situation is a painful reminder of the fact that synagogues in America continue to be at risk for terrorist attacks. There is no doubt, given what we know so far, that the hostage-taker chose his target carefully. We urge law enforcement and prosecutors to investigate the role antisemitism may have played in motivating the suspect.’’

The ADL on Sunday urged Congress to double funding for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Nonprofit Security Grant Program, which provides nonprofit organizations, including Jewish schools and houses of worship, with financial support to bolster security. In 2021, the program accepted only 1,532 grant applications out of the 3,361 submitted, and allocated less than half of the total funds requested by applicants, according to the ADL.

“With threats against synagogues and other Jewish institutions arguably at an all-time high, it is imperative that the federal government provides appropriate levels of funding to mitigate the threat,” said Greenblatt. “As we saw in Texas, it is urgently critical for Congress to increase funding to protect these non-profit organizations from future acts of terrorism or hate-motivated violence.”

The group also urged the Senate to immediately confirm Dr. Deborah Lipstadt as the State Department’s special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism.

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