Jan. 21 (UPI) — The FBI is treating Saturday’s hostage situation at a Texas synagogue as an act of terrorism that targeted the Jewish community, Christopher Wray, the department’s director, said Thursday.
“This was not some random occurrence. It was intentional; it was symbolic, and we’re not going to tolerate antisemitism in this country,” Wray said during a webinar hosted by the Anti-Defamation League.
British citizen Malik Faisal Akram, 44, was killed Saturday, bringing an end to an 11-hour standoff at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex where he held four people hostage, all of whom were released unharmed.
Authorities following the attack said that Akram’s demands were not connected to the Jewish community and that he may have been motived by a desire to secure the release of convicted terrorist Aafia Siddiqui, who is currently serving an 86-year sentence at a jail near Fort Worth.
Following criticism for its statements, the FBI on Sunday described the incident as a “terrorism-related matter, in which the Jewish community was targeted” and said it was being investigated by the Joint Terrorism Task Force.
On Thursday, Wray said terrorism task forces nationwide are investigating to understand why Akram targeted that synagogue, with the FBI lab processing evidence and the Operational Technology Division analyzing phones and other electronic devices and media.
He added that the Jewish community in particular has suffered violence and faces threats from across “the hate spectrum,” including from domestic violent extremists and those radicalized online by Jihadist movements.
“All of them have expressed an intent and acted to do harm to the Jewish community, both here at home and abroad,” Wray said. “And it’s because of that that we consider the enduring threats to the Jewish community to be among our very highest priorities.”
The webinar was held as British police announced they are had arrested two men earlier Thursday in connection to the hostage incident.
They have not been charged and police did not reveal further details about the two suspects.