Texas hostage standoff elevating issues about “copycat assaults”

The investigation into the gunman who held 4 individuals hostage at a Texas synagogue Saturday has elevated concern amongst federal officers about attainable “copycat assaults,” in line with an intelligence bulletin obtained by CBS Information.

The joint bulletin was issued Tuesday to federal, state and native legislation enforcement companions by the FBI, Division of Homeland Safety and Nationwide Counterterrorism Middle.

Regulation enforcement sources say, and livestream audio of the incident reveals that the gunman, recognized by authorities as 44-year-old British citizen Malik Faisal Akram, repeatedly requested for the discharge of Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani girl serving an 86-year sentence in a federal jail in Texas for making an attempt to kill U.S. officers in Afghanistan.

Audio of the assault was captured on a synagogue dwell stream of its worship service for about the primary 40 minutes, in line with the joint bulletin. It stays unclear to investigators if the livestream was a part of Akram’s plan, although federal legislation enforcement has recognized the usage of dwell streaming as a rising development amongst violent extremists to attempt to amplify their assaults each domestically and overseas.

Tuesday’s bulletin cautions that “the hostage scenario has reinvigorated on-line discussions, predominantly from … al Qaeda supporters, concerning Siddiqui’s detainment.”

Police Respond To Hostage Situation At Texas Synagogue
A legislation enforcement car sits in entrance of the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue on January 16, 2022 in Colleyville, Texas, after the hostage standoff there ended safely.

/ Getty Pictures

Though there are “no identified particular or ongoing threats to the Jewish group which have been recognized associated to this assault,” the FBI, DHS, and NCTC proceed to “urge legislation enforcement companions to take care of a posture of elevated situational consciousness,” the bulletin says.

“The FBI, DHS, and NCTC additionally stay involved concerning the potential for copycat assaults following this incident because of the quantity of on-line violent extremist messaging advocating for the discharge of Aafia Siddiqui,” the bulletin reads. “For the reason that assault, open sources have reported on-line discussions — from a wide range of sources, together with AQ (al Qaeda) supporters — praising the assault and renewing consideration on Siddiqui’s imprisonment.”

The advisory additionally factors to current al Qaeda-affiliated makes an attempt to reward Akram and his violent actions. Editors of an al Qaeda-affiliated journal launched an announcement Monday, commending and celebrating his actions, the bulletin states.

For the reason that assault, outstanding al Qaeda backers have gone o non-public and public on-line websites to name Akram a “brother” and “martyr” for drawing consideration to Aafia Siddiqui’s trigger.

And whereas mainstream media retailers together with Fb and Twitter have been faster to take away requires violence in current months, extremist actors have migrated to smaller, encrypted platforms corresponding to Telegram, Ingredient and “Rocketchat” to submit such messages.

Particulars on Akram’s journey to U.S.

The bulletin states that Akram got here alone to america on December 29, 2021, by the U.S. Visa Waiver Program.

His entrance into U.S. was accepted by the U.S. Customs and Border Safety’s Digital System for Journey Authorization, or “ESTA,” in line with the bulletin, at New York Metropolis’s John F. Kennedy Worldwide Airport. Tourism visas aren’t required for British vacationers planning to remain in america for lower than three months.

Akram, who paid for his personal flight from the UK to New York, didn’t seem on any U.S. terror watch lists, federal legislation enforcement sources beforehand confirmed to CBS Information. He stayed in New York Metropolis for 2 days earlier than touring to Texas the place, he instructed members of the family, he hoped to discover a bride.

The bulletin says the 4 hostages escaped earlier than the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Group entered the synagogue.

“At roughly 10:11pm EST, as a tactical group approached to make entry to the synagogue, the hostages escaped and had been secured by tactical parts,” the memo signifies.

“The assault group rapidly breached the ability at a separate level of entry and the topic was killed.”

Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, who was one of many individuals taken hostage, instructed “CBS Mornings” Tuesday that the scenario gave the impression to be deteriorating close to the top of the evening.

In keeping with the bulletin, Akram “instructed hostages he possessed weapons and bombs and that he was ‘not afraid to tug the strings.'”

Texas rabbi on surviving hostage disaster


“I instructed them to go, I threw a chair on the gunman and I headed for the door,” Cytron-Walker recounted. “And all … of us had been in a position to get out with out even a shot being fired.”

Akram was later discovered to be in possession of only one firearm — a handgun he mentioned he purchased “on the road,” in line with notes obtained by CBS Information of a high-level legislation enforcement convention name led by FBI director Christopher Wray.

Elevated focus of anti-Semitism in U.S.

In keeping with the FBI’s annual knowledge on hate crimes, incidents concentrating on the Jewish group in 2020 made up over half of all religion-based crimes. In 2020, the Anti-Defamation League recorded 327 anti-Semitic incidents at Jewish establishments corresponding to synagogues, Jewish group facilities and Jewish colleges, a rise of 40% from 2019.

On Tuesday, Legal professional Normal Merrick Garland, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and the FBI’s Wray provided reassurance to greater than 1,000 members of the Orthodox Jewish group throughout a teleconference, acknowledging the current hostage standoff and underlining efforts to safe weak Jewish establishments, nationwide.

Officers urged synagogue leaders to interact with native FBI area workplaces and take part in emergency preparedness measures, in line with attendees.

Rabbi Cytron-Walker famous that he discovered from safety coaching periods he attended previous to Saturday that “when your life is threatened, that you must do no matter you may to get to security.”   

Mayorkas confirmed to reporters Monday that Cytron-Walker’s Beth Israel Congregation has acquired federal funding through the Nonprofit Safety Grant Program, which grants non-profit organizations funds to increase their bodily safety footprint together with fencing, cameras and safety guards.

Funding for this system has skyrocketed in recent times, going from $20 million in 2016 to $180 million final 12 months, in line with the Federal Emergency Administration Company, which manages it.

On Monday, Mayorkas known as on Congress to extend funding “in order that our faith-based communities have the instruments to improve their safety and shield themselves in opposition to terrorism, hate crimes and focused violence.”

In a tweet, the DHS secretary known as the $180 million allotted in Fiscal Yr 2021 “not practically sufficient to fulfill the demand.”

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