The man who took a rabbi and three other people hostage at a Dallas-area synagogue Saturday night in an hours-long standoff with law enforcement has been identified as 44-year-old British citizen Malik Faisal Akram, according to the FBI.

Matthew DeSarno, the FBI special agent in charge of the Dallas field office, confirmed the identity of the Colleyville, Texas, hostage-taker in a statement Sunday, adding that there was no indication that any other individuals were involved.

Authorities from Texas to London were working to answer key questions about the standoff at Congregation Beth Israel, which ended with the suspect confirmed dead and all the hostages safe. The incident sent shock waves through the Jewish community and far beyond the United States, sparking calls for officials to do more to ensure safety at synagogues.

President Biden said Sunday that he had spoken with Attorney General Merrick Garland about the standoff and that they were working to “address these types of acts.”

“This was an act of terror,” Biden told reporters during a visit to a Philadelphia food bank.

The suspect arrived at New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport on Dec. 29, according to law enforcement officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because it is an ongoing investigation. As the crisis unfolded, he spoke to his family in England, as part of the FBI negotiators’ attempts to defuse the situation, the officials said.


Across the Atlantic, Metropolitan Police and other U.K. authorities said they were working closely with their U.S. counterparts on the U.S.-led investigation. A spokesperson for Britain’s Foreign Office confirmed in a statement to The Washington Post that officials were “aware of the death of a British man in Texas and are in contact with the local authorities.”

And in Texas, the rabbi of the synagogue, Charlie Cytron-Walker, expressed gratitude and relief that he and the other hostages were safe.

“I am thankful and filled with appreciation for all of the vigils and prayers and love and support,” Cytron-Walker wrote in a post on a Facebook account that two Jewish community leaders confirmed as his. “I am grateful that we made it out. I am grateful to be alive.”

The ordeal – part of which was caught on a livestream – shook many in Colleyville, a suburb between Fort Worth and Dallas, Texas, where Cytron-Walker is known for his humanitarian and interfaith work. Several people who know the rabbi said they believed his calm demeanor was vital during the tense moments of the standoff.

“The way he was able to comport himself with clarity and strength and gentleness was quite remarkable,” said Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, the country’s biggest Jewish denomination.

After getting word of the crisis, Jacobs logged on to the synagogue’s livestream and caught part of Cytron-Walker’s exchange with the suspect. Jacobs described the congregation as “very serious about security,” declining to provide details, noting that it was a delicate matter.


“This is a congregation that was well aware of the things that must be done to keep congregations secure,” he said.

In the early hours of the hostage-taking, the suspect demanded that Cytron-Walker call a rabbi in New York to convey his demand that Aafia Siddiqui be freed. That second rabbi, a woman, called authorities. FBI officials did not believe the New York rabbi was being threatened, but federal and local authorities provided security for her and her synagogue as a precaution, according to law enforcement officials.

Stacey Silverman, who has been a member of the Congregation Beth Israel for 13 years, watched as the hostages were taken while the service was being live-streamed and said the suspect could be heard saying that he had flown to the area from 5,000 miles away – and that he chose a synagogue because the United States “only cares about Jewish lives.”

A law enforcement official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the investigation said the man’s motive for taking hostages appeared to be his anger over the U.S. imprisonment of Siddiqui, a Pakistani woman being held in federal prison in Fort Worth for trying to kill U.S. soldiers. Siddiqui was convicted on terrorism charges in 2010 and sentenced to 86 years in prison after opening fire on Americans.

During the standoff, according to law enforcement officials, the suspect brandished a gun and what he said were explosives. It is unclear what the purported explosive devices were, but they were rendered safe by law enforcement after the standoff ended.

Cytron-Walker, originally from Lansing, Michigan, has a long career of working for social and humanitarian causes. He previously worked at a civil and human rights organization in Detroit and later as an assistant director of a center in Amherst, Massachusetts, that provides food and other services to those in need, according to a biography posted on the congregation’s website.


At Congregation Beth Israel, he has worked to bring “a sense of spirituality, compassion, and learning” to the community, welcoming anyone “from interfaith families to LGBT individuals and families to those seeking to find a spiritual home in Judaism,” the website says.

Cytron-Walker did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Gary Zola, a professor at Cincinnati-based Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, recalled the days when a younger Cytron-Walker was his student.

“Charlie was memorable in a way that few people are,” Zola said. “He had a gift of being kind to everybody. He took to heart the Reform Jewish idea that we are meant to build bridges.”

Before becoming Congregation Beth Israel’s first full-time rabbi in 2006, Cytron-Walker received his rabbinical ordination in Cincinnati, where he was an intern at a local temple.”

“They still remember him,” Zola said, adding that he received a flurry of worried calls Saturday, a testament of how Cytron-Walker “touched the hearts of people everywhere he went.”

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