LONDON — The British man who took four people hostage at a Texas synagogue over the weekend before being killed was known to British intelligence services, British and U.S. officials said Tuesday.
The man, whom the F.B.I. identified as Malik Faisal Akram, 44, had been on the watch list of Britain’s MI5 security service as a “subject of interest,” according to a British official who requested anonymity. The British intelligence agency started a brief investigation into Mr. Akram in the second half of 2020, and closed it after reaching the assessment that there was no indication of any terrorist threat at that time, the official said.
That account was also revealed by an American official briefed on the matter, who also spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is continuing.
The details of the investigation were reported earlier by the BBC and The Guardian.
Mr. Akram, originally from the northern British town of Blackburn, had arrived in the United States just before the New Year after leaving Britain on Dec. 29, but much is still unknown about why he targeted the Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas, during a Saturday morning service. Britain’s Home Office declined to comment on the case or confirm the BBC report on the investigation.
Gulbar Akram, Mr. Akram’s brother, has described his sibling as mentally unwell and said he also had a criminal past and was known to the British police. He questioned how his brother was allowed to enter the United States, but he maintained that he did not believe his brother was antisemitic.
The family said they had been cooperating with the British authorities, and Gulbar Akram spoke with his brother during the 11-hour standoff, trying to convince him to release the hostages and turn himself in.
Two teenagers were arrested on Sunday night in the northern British city of Manchester “as part of the ongoing investigation into the attack that took place at a Synagogue in Texas,” the Greater Manchester Police said in a statement. They were later released without charge.
An address in North Manchester was also searched as part of the investigation by counterterrorism police. Dominic Scally, the temporary assistant chief constable for Counter Terrorism Policing North West, said the police were “continuing to assist with the investigation which is being led by U.S. authorities” and that they had held meetings with them overnight.
All four people who were held hostage by Mr. Akram in Texas, including the rabbi of the synagogue, made it out unharmed. One man was released a few hours after the standoff began. The rabbi, Charlie Cytron-Walker, described how hours later, he pushed a chair at Mr. Akram, who was wielding a gun, and the remaining three men ran for the door.
Law enforcement then entered the building, and Mr. Akram was shot and killed. The F.B.I. said in a statement over the weekend that there was no indication anyone else was involved in the hostage-taking incident.
Rabbi Cytron-Walker attributed the escape by the hostages to years of security training, after threats to a number of other synagogues. In an interview with The New York Times, Rabbi Cytron-Walker said he had taken part in at least four separate trainings in recent years.
Mr. Akram claimed when he took the hostages at the synagogue that he had guns and two bombs and was “not afraid to pull the strings,” according to a federal law enforcement official. He also demanded to speak to a Jewish leader in New York or he would shoot hostages, the official said.
During the incident he was also heard referencing Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist who was convicted in a federal court in 2010 for trying to kill American military officers while she was in custody in Afghanistan. She is serving an 86-year prison sentence in Fort Worth, not far from Colleyville.
The F.B.I. is investigating how he acquired the gun.
Megan Specia reported from London, and Eileen Sullivan from Washington. Adam Goldman and Eric Schmitt contributed reporting from Washington, and Aina J. Khan contributed reporting from Bradford, England.