Colleyville synagogue hostage crisis was targeted attack on Jews, FBI says

What happened in Colleyville Saturday was targeted terrorism at the Jewish community, the FBI revealed.

FBI Director Christopher Wray was part of an anti-defamation league webinar on Thursday with Rabbi Charlie Cytron Walker, who created the diversion by throwing a chair at the gunman so he and two others still inside could get out.

The webinar happened on the same day British authorities arrested two men somehow connected to the hostage-taker.

MORE: British police arrest 2 men connected to Colleyville synagogue hostage situation

It’s been five days since an unbelievable nearly eleven-hour hostage situation happened inside Colleyville's Congregation Beth Israel.

COLLEYVILLE, TEXAS - JANUARY 16: Law enforcement officers conduct inspections around the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue on January 16, 2022 in Colleyville, Texas. All four people who were held hostage at the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue hav

An anti-defamation league webinar was held on fighting hate from home: lessons from a hostage crisis.

"This was not some random occurrence. It was intentional. It was symbolic," Wray said. "And we're not going to tolerate antisemitism in this country." 

Malik Akram was killed by an FBI hostage rescue team after those inside escaped.

The Jewish Chronicle obtained audio of the last phone call he made to his family. As Akram's brother tried to get him to give up, the British citizen spewed venom against Jews, cursing Jews and America.

Akram said he was not giving up and that he had prayed about this for two years and was opening the doors to further attacks.

"He asked if we had a night shelter," Walker recalled. "I said, ‘No, we don’t have a night shelter.’ But it was cold."

Rabbi Walker said the man had a few bags with him and said he had been walking. Moved by compassion, the rabbi let him in and said there were no initial red flags.

"The sense of nervousness, the darting around, those kinds of things that you might expect, he was calm," the rabbi said. "He was appreciative. He was able to talk with me all the way throughout and look me in the eye."

Akram then pulled a gun on the rabbi and three others as they prayed, threatening a bomb demanding to speak to New York rabbis and the release of a Pakistani national serving a prison sentence in Fort Worth for trying to kill U.S. personnel. He said America would listen because he was holding Jews hostage. 

"It was basically the notion that Jews were more important in his mind than everyone else and that America would do more to save Jews than it would for anyone else," Walker said. "It was so random for this guy to come to America and target our synagogue because he thought it was the closest synagogue to where this person was being held. This is not the kind of thing that we see or experience every day or any day, except for this past Saturday."

The rabbi told the webinar all of the security training did help but added a sobering truth. 

"No matter how good the planning, no matter how good the security is, these kinds of things still happen," he said. "And we were unfortunate to have it happen at Congregation Beth Israel. And we are so fortunate. I’m so grateful that I’m able to be here."

Wray says these kinds of one-off attacks are our greatest threat. Because it’s not a big terror cell, there are fewer dots to connect and less time to connect them.

Rabbi Walker says Congregation Beth Israel will move forward one step at a time and will resume services this weekend.


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