Wednesday May 18, 2022

Texas hostage taker Malik Faisal radicalised locally in Blackburn

By Our Correspondent
January 18, 2022

LONDON: The British national shot dead after taking four people hostage inside a Texas synagogue was radicalised locally in Blackburn and had no connections with Pakistan, according to family sources who spoke to Geo and The News.

Malik Faisal Akram, 44, 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 on Saturday after Malik Faisal Akram made demands for the release of Dr Aafia Siddiqui.

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

Malik Faisal Akram’s father is Malik Akram, a respected local community figure who is originally from Jhelum and migrated to Britain around five decades ago. Malik Akram and his close family have been involved in local politics and one of their close relatives Malik Irfan is a Labour party councillor. The locals who spoke to this correspondent said that Malik Akram and his family went along well with others locally.

This correspondent spoke to at least three family sources who confirmed that Malik Faisal didn’t get on well with his family who are known to be religious but peaceful and tolerant. Malik Akram has five sons and a daughter. One of Faisal’s brothers passed away recently.

Malik Akram has served as 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 Road, attended mostly by Gujarati Muslim community. Malik Faisal Akram took part in demonstrations for the freedom of Palestine and took part in protests for the release of Muslim prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. He was married to a British Gujarati woman.

As soon as the news emerged of Faisal’s involvement in the hostage taking, the local Blackburn council issued a request to all local councilors not to speak to media and Malik Faisal Akram’s brother Gulbar Akram said in a message that he had been working with the FBI and “liasing” with his sibling throughout the stand-off. He also apologised and wrote: “It is with great great sadness I will confirm my brother Faisal passed away in Texas, 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.”

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

A family 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.

A close relative told this reporter: “Malik Faisal Akram 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 business minded and clever. The whole community is in a state of shock. It’s true that he 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 is unbelievable when we all know that it’s a matter for the governments and not individuals.”