Wednesday Jan 19 2022

Texas synagogue killing: Faisal Akram’s brother raises questions

  • Blackburn man Faisal Akram's brother condemns actions of Faisal.
  • Faisal's brother demands answers about how he was allowed to travel to US.
  • Faisal's brother says he tried his best to persuade brother to end hostage situation.

BLACKBURN: The elder brother of Blackburn man Malik Faisal Akram, who took four people hostage at a synagogue in the US before being shot dead, has condemned the actions of his brother, while demanding answers about how he was allowed to travel to the US.

In an exclusive statement to Geo News, Malik Gulbar Akram explained that he tried his best to persuade his brother to end the hostage situation and put an end to the tragedy, but it became clear soon that Faisal Akram had decided to end his life.

On Saturday, Malik Faisal Akram, 44, was shot dead following an 11-hour stand-off at Congregation Beth Israel. All the hostages were rescued without any physical harm.

Malik Gulbar Akram came to know about the harrowing incident when he received a call from his teenage nephew saying that his father was involved in a shootout with the police in the US. Malik Gulbar Akram immediately informed the police, and within minutes he was involved in negotiating with his brother, issuing heartfelt pleas to him from his car as well as from the police station where a crisis centre had been established to liaise with the police services across the continents. The White House watched the operation live.

But Malik Gulbar Akram called on his brother to end the hostage situation, think about his family and come home, but his pleas were ignored. Geo News understands from trusted family sources that Malik Gulbar Akram spoke to his brother for nearly half an hour, constantly reminding him of his family.

Malik Gulbar Akram said in his statement: "We are deeply saddened by the events of the past few days. We don’t want to make this about us. We think about what the victims went through. There were people who were fearful for their lives.

"We feel a great deal of pain for those who went through this. We hope nothing like this happens again in the future. As a family, it has been traumatic and devastating, so soon after our brother, 42, passed away barely four months ago.

"For us to see our mother crying and my father visiting the grave each day. They are crushed.

Our brother has gone, but the victims didn’t choose to be in this situation, and we can only feel for them. We were not aware that he had left the country. It had come as a complete shock to us. "

The statement from Malik Gulbar Akram said that he knew something terrible had happened when he took a call from his nephew. When Gulbar asked Faisal what he was doing in the US, he replied: "I am in America and I am in a synagogue. I have four beautiful Jewish people with me. "

At that point, Gulbar started recording the conversation, mindful that this could be the last time he would hear from his brother.

During the phone call, Faisal told Gulbar he had taken hostages to highlight the continuing imprisonment of Pakistani national Dr Aafia Siddiqui. "I wanted the authorities to bring out Aafia Siddiqui," Faisal told Gulbar.

In the conversation, Gulbar can be heard talking to his brother, urging him to think of his family.

Gulbar said: "I tried to convince him to think about your kids. I told him ‘pack it in" and "pack it on’. His mind was made up. At no point did he say he would harm these people. I knew he had no bomb as he switches between Punjabi and English when he is lying. He had a handgun. I told him, ‘You wanted to create awareness and you made your point’. As the call went along, I feared he would not get out of this alive. All I could do was plead with him. I was in tears at this point. He then said: ‘If I have ever done anything wrong to you, please forgive me.’

"I just believe that they didn’t need to kill him. He had let the shots off. I heard the shots that finally killed him. I feel angry. They didn’t have to kill him. Once the hostages are out, there is no reason to go in and kill him. "

Gulbar Akram’s statement continued: "We cannot come to terms with it. It just feels unreal. It happens to other people, too. It is a traumatic event for us all. I do not feel he intended to hurt anyone. From what we know, not one person needed medical treatment, and he was there for 11 hours."

Gulbar said Faisal Akram had never mentioned anything about Aafia Siddqui till then, and nobody could imagine he would take such an extreme step.

Gulbar Akram questioned why Faisal Akram was allowed to get on a plane without any stringent checks when he didn’t have proof of COVID vaccination and had faced issues with law enforcement previously.

He said soon after arriving in the US, Faisal Akram was able to buy a sim card and a gun without any issues and stayed at a homeless facility for two weeks before taking hostages at the synagogue in another state.

Gulbar Akram said: "My brother was not a planner and never has been." A guy from Blackburn gets on a plane and doesn’t get questioned. He is also anti-vax. How did he get a visa? If my brother had never had mental health issues, he would never have been involved in this. He should have been helped. He would never admit that he had mental health issues. It let him down over the years. "

Gulbar called for a full-fledged investigation into the incident that has ripped apart his family and the communities. He said: "We want to be part of the investigation and help as much as we can. We want nothing to be left out and nothing has been hidden from us. At the same time, we want to get our brother back so we can do the burial.

"We strongly feel this could have been prevented if he had not been allowed into the country."

A family source said they have requested the US government to send Faisal Akram’s body to the family in Blackburn for burial in the local cemetery.

Last Saturday, Faisal had held four people hostage for more than 10 hours at the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue in Colleyville, Texas, while he made demands for the release of Dr Aafia. After Akram was gunned down, all the hostages were reported free and safe.