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Texas hostage-taker had no links to Pakistan, radicalised in England: family sources

Malik Faisal didn’t get on well with his family who is known to be "religious but peaceful and tolerant", say sources

By Murtaza Ali Shah
January 17, 2022
Malik Faisal Akram at a demonstration. Photo by the author.
Malik Faisal Akram at a demonstration. Photo by the author.

LONDON: Malik Faisal Akram, a British national of Pakistani origin, who was gunned down by the FBI after taking four people hostage inside a Texas synagogue was radicalised locally in Blackburn, said his family sources.

Speaking to The News, the sources said that Akram, 44, had no links  to Pakistan. 

On Sunday, Akram was shot dead by the FBI's elite Hostage Rescue Team after holding four hostages for more than 10 hours at Congregation Beth Israel synagogue in Colleyville, Texas after he made demands for the release of Dr Aafia Siddiqui.

He held the hostages, including Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, for about 10 hours before being shot dead. All of the hostages were subsequently reported free and safe.

Faisal's father, Malik Akram, is a respected local community figure who hails from Jhelum and had migrated to Britain around five decades ago.

Malik Akram and members of his family actively participate in local politics and one of their close relatives Malik Irfan is a Labour Party councillor. According to the locals who spoke to this correspondent, Malik Akram and his family got along with others.

At least three sources within the Akram family confirmed that Malik Faisal didn’t get on well with his family who is known to be "religious but peaceful and tolerant". He was married to a British Gujarati woman.

Malik Akram has five sons and a daughter but one of his sons passed away recently after suffering from COVID-19. He has served as the president of the Islamic centre on Randal Street, called Raza Masjid, where most Pakistanis go for prayers but Malik Faisal attended Masjid-e-Irfan at Eldon Raod, which is attended mostly by Gujarati Muslim.

A local source said that Faisal took part in demonstrations for the freedom of Palestine and took part in protests for the release of Muslims prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.

As soon as the news emerged of Faisal’s involvement in the hostage-taking, the local Blackburn council issued a request to all local councillors not to speak to media.

Faisal's brother Gulbar Akram said in a message that he had been working with the FBI and “liaising” with his sibling throughout the stand-off. He also apologised and wrote: “It is with great sadness, I will confirm that my brother Faisal passed away in Texas, the USA this morning. We are absolutely devastated as a family. We can’t say much now as there is an ongoing FBI investigation.

“There was nothing we could have said to him or done that would have convinced him to surrender. Obviously, our priority will be to get him back to the UK for his funeral prayers, although we have been warned it could take weeks. We would also like to add that any attack on any human being be it a Jew, Christian or Muslim etc is wrong and should always be condemned. It is absolutely inexcusable for a Muslim to attack a Jew or for any Jew to attack a Muslim, Christian, Hindu vice versa etc.”

Faisal, who was reportedly armed with “backpacks containing explosives”, had demanded the release of Aafia Siddiqui — who police say he referred to as his sister. It is believed that Aafia Siddiqui’s family had no idea about the extremist step taken by Faisal.

A source in Karachi said that all family members of Aafia Siddiqui were in a hospital attending to a critically ill family member when they heard the news about the hostage situation and demand of the hostage-taker.

A close relative said: “Faisal was not this sort of person. He went with Tablighi jamaat a few times and always spoke politely and intellectually. It’s unbelievable that he took such a step. He was a business-minded and clever person. The whole community is in a state of shock."

He said it is true that Faisal had developed issues with his family in the last few months and he was upset but to go all the way to the US to demand the release of Aafia Siddiqui was "unbelievable when it is known that it’s a matter for the governments and not individuals".