Despite initially claiming that the Texas synagogue siege was not directly targeted at Jews, the FBI has now admitted it was a terror attack.
At Congregation Beth Israel synagogue in Colleyville, Texas, on Saturday night, terrorist Malik Faisal Akram held four people hostage, including a rabbi.
In a statement following the attack, in which Akram was killed in a hail of bullets, Special Agent Matt DeSarno of the FBI said: ‘We do believe from our engaging with this subject that he was singularly focused on one issue, and it was not specifically related to the Jewish community. But we’re continuing to work to find motive.’
GOP Senator Lindsey Graham took issue with the ‘disturbing’ remarks from investigators and demanded clarifications.
Late Sunday night, the FBI reversed course and admitted that the attack was ‘a terrorism-related matter, in which the Jewish community was targeted.’
A few hours earlier, Joe Biden had declared ‘it was an act of terror.’
According to reports, Akram flew to America two weeks ago, lived in homeless shelters, and bought a gun on the street.
It was his goal to get terrorist Aafia Siddiqqui out of a prison in nearby Fort Worth, Texas.
Among the four hostages of Akram was Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, who was leading Sabbath services.
Two teenagers who were arrested over the incident in Manchester, England, last night by anti-terror officers were initially said to be not involved in the siege by the FBI.
Both of the suspects, who are believed to be under 18, remain in custody for legal reasons.
A statement was released on behalf of Akram’s family by his brother Gulbar last night in which he spoke of his family’s ‘devastation’ and revealed how relatives were in communications with Malik while he was attacking but were unable to convince him to surrender.
At the beginning of the siege, Akram entered the building as it was live-streaming a service, chanting that he was carrying weapons and explosives in his backpack.
He demanded the release of jailed female terrorist Siddiqu – known as Lady Al Qaeda – calling her his ‘sister,’ but the pair are unrelated.
As the assailant stayed inside the synagogue, he told a SWAT team: ‘If anyone tries to enter this building, I’m telling you… everyone will die.’
In response, leaders from the Islamic Center of Southlake, a religious community that has worked closely with Rabbi Cytron-Walker to bring unity in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, went to the scene of the attack to denounce it and pray for their friend.
‘We want to see him again as soon as possible,’ said former Islamic Center president Shahzad Mahmud. ‘We just want to make sure he goes back to his family,’
A hostage was freed early on in the incident, and three others escaped before it ended.
Video clearly captured the moment when two hostages attempted to escape the temple, followed by Akram with a gun as he chased them before retreating back inside and closing the temple door soon after spotting the SWAT team.
As gunshots rang out, dozens of agents broke into the synagogue.
Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina posted a series of tweets expressing his frustration with the FBI, which appears to ignore the fact the attack targeted a religion that has faced violent and often murderous anti-Semitic hatred for decades.
‘It is very disturbing to hear from the FBI they do not believe the hostage taker’s demands had anything to do with the Jewish faith,’ Graham declared.
‘Apparently, the FBI believes the hostage-taker randomly selected a synagogue to demand the release of al-Qaeda operative and facilitator Aafia Siddiqui,’ he went on.
‘I hope the FBI will reconsider the statement because it is well known that at her trial Siddiqui, also known as ‘Lady al-Qaeda,’ was a raging anti-Semite who demanded that jurors be genetically tested for Jewish blood,’ Graham tweeted a day later.
‘This statement by the FBI seems ill-conceived and ill-timed. I look forward to further explanation from the FBI,’ Graham wrote.
Rabbi Scott Hausman-Weiss also questioned the FBI’s statement, saying that whenever Jews were attacked, the entire community felt the effects – especially as anti-Semitic violence has increased in recent years.
‘They are us. There’s no distinction. Anywhere they are in danger, we are,’ Hausman-Weiss, the Congregation Shma Koleinu’s founding rabbi said on Sunday.
People on social media have also criticized DeSarno’s statement, with some suggesting that the FBI should be ‘defunded and eliminated.’
‘Just a coincidence that he targeted a house of worship used by this one particular religious minority, a coincidence that seems to happen an awful lot throughout history,’ Gregg Carlstrom, a media correspondent, tweeted.
‘I am sure the FBI will clean this up shortly, but until then, worth stating the obvious: The gunman did not travel thousands of miles to terrorize some Mormons. He sought out a synagogue and took it hostage over his grievances. That’s targeting Jews, and there’s a word for that,’ reporter Yair Rosenberg said on Twitter.
‘The FBI is a joke. A dangerous joke,’ exclaimed military intelligence analyst Sebastian Gorka.
FBI statistics report that 58 percent of the US Jewish population is the target of religiously motivated hate crimes.
‘Hate crimes are up across the country, but considering that Jews make up 2% of the American population and yet nearly 60% of all hate crimes are anti-Semitic, there is definitely an issue going on,’ Representative Beth Van Duyne of Texas said Fox News.
As a precaution, several places of worship have stepped up their security measures following the shooting.
‘It is really frightening and scary that the Jewish day of rest, the Sabbath, was disturbed for this particular synagogue of course and really for Jews all over the world,’ the Rabbi of Congregation Beth Yeshurun in Houston told Fox.
‘This is a day of rest, a day to thank God for all the good of our life, to be with our friends and family.
‘Thank God everything worked out for the best, but it’s frightening for all of us that attend places of worship in this great country.’