Two teenagers arrested in Manchester as part of probe into Texas synagogue attack

Malik Faisal Akram held people hostage at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville on Saturday. Credit: AP

Two teenagers have been arrested in Manchester as part of the investigation into the Texas synagogue attack by a British hostage-taker.

Malik Faisal Akram, from Blackburn in Lancashire, was killed after taking four people hostage at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville on Saturday.

Akram flew to the US, bought a weapon and held people hostage in a 10-hour stand-off at the synagogue. He was shot dead after the FBI stormed the building.

All four hostages were unharmed.

President Joe Biden branded the incident “an act of terror” and UK police are working with authorities in the US on the investigation.

'We are focused... making sure that we deal with these kinds of acts'

Greater Manchester Police confirmed in a statement on Sunday night that officers from Counter Terror Policing North West have made two arrests as part of the ongoing investigation into the attack.

Police said the teenagers, whose ages and genders they did not immediately confirm, remain in custody for questioning.

Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, one of the people held hostage in the synagogue, described his "terrifying" ordeal.

He recalled making tea for Akram before the congregation but said although Akram's story didn't add up, he did not hear anything suspicious.

It was during prayer, when Rabbi Cytron-Walker had his back turned as he faced towards Jerusalem, that he heard the click of Akram's gun.

He said: "The last hour or so of the standoff, he wasn't getting what he wanted. It didn't look good, it didn't sound good, we were terrified.

"And when I saw an opportunity where he wasn't in a good position, I made sure that the two gentlemen who were still with me, that they were ready to go, that the exit wasn't too far away.

"I told them to go, I threw a chair at the gunman and I headed for the door and all three of us were able to get out without even a shot being fired."

Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, who was held hostage in the synagogue, recalls how he and a few other hostages managed to escape the gunman

He added he was "so grateful" the prayer was done partly virtually, with fewer people at the synagogue during the attack.

He said: "But the fact that it was only a few of us had to experience- all of us experienced trauma but just a few of us had to experience that level of trauma is just one of so many things that I'm grateful for."

And security training he had with various authorities allowed him and the other three hostages to make it through the 10-hour ordeal, the rabbi said.

"They really teach you in those moments when your life is threatened, you need to do whatever you can to get to safety, you need to do whatever you can to get out," said Rabbi Cytron-Walker.

Akram’s family said they were “absolutely devastated” by what had happened and “do not condone any of his actions”, according to a statement which had been shared on the Blackburn Muslim Community Facebook page.

Law enforcement officials gathering nearby on Saturday. Credit: AP

The statement, attributed to Akram’s brother Gulbar who said he had been involved in negotiating from the UK with his sibling during the ordeal, added that the hostage-taker “was suffering from mental health issues”.

US officials believe Akram had a visa, arrived at John F Kennedy International Airport in New York around two weeks ago and bought a handgun used in the incident.

In an update to reporters on Sunday, Mr Biden said while he did not have all the details it was believed Akram had “got the weapons on the street”, adding: “He purchased them when he landed.”

He said there were “no bombs that we know of”, and that Akram is thought to have “spent the first night in a homeless shelter”.

Condemning what had happened, the statement from Akram’s family said: “We would like to say that we as a family do not condone any of his actions and would like to sincerely apologise wholeheartedly to all the victims involved in the unfortunate incident.”

Police outside the synagogue. Credit: AP

Akram is said to have demanded the release of Pakistani neuroscientist Aafia Siddiqui, who was convicted of trying to kill US army officers in Afghanistan, and is in prison in Texas.

Speaking to reporters after the incident, FBI special agent in charge Matt DeSarno said they believed the man was “singularly focused on one issue and it was not specifically related to the Jewish community”, and added they will continue to “work to find motive”.

Confirming that the hostage-taker had died, he said there would be “an independent investigation of the shooting incident”.

He said the FBI had been in contact with their legal attache offices in London and Israel for an investigation with “global reach”.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss condemned the “act of terrorism and anti-semitism”, while the British Ambassador to the United States Karen Pierce said UK authorities are providing “full support to Texas and US law enforcement agencies”.