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What we know about what happened at the Texas synagogue

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We've been learning more today about that hostage situation yesterday at a synagogue in the suburbs of Dallas, Texas. The standoff ended with the death of a man who'd been holding four people inside the house of worship for many hours. Law enforcement moved in late last night, ending the standoff. None of the hostages was hurt. But as we said, the hostage-taker died.

NPR's Joe Hernandez has been following this story and is with us now to tell us more. Joe, welcome. Thank you for joining us.

JOE HERNANDEZ, BYLINE: Hi, Michel.

MARTIN: So what can you tell us about who the hostage-taker was?

HERNANDEZ: The FBI announced his name was Malik Faisal Akram. And he's a 44-year-old man. He was a British citizen. And basically, that's what we know so far. And news of his British citizenship prompted some reaction from officials there in the United Kingdom. They condemned the violence and expressed solidarity with the U.S.

MARTIN: Beyond that, is there any indication of what this man wanted? - because there have been all kinds of conflicting reports about this.

HERNANDEZ: Yeah. I mean, we don't know for sure yet. The FBI wouldn't confirm motives or demands. But FBI Dallas special agent in charge Matt DeSarno said on Saturday that he was, quote, "singularly focused on one issue in his demands." Now, that could be something that was reported in the Associated Press and other outlets, which is that Akram was heard on a livestream of the Shabbat service demanding the release of Afia Siddiqui. She is a Pakistani neuroscientist serving a sentence in Texas federal prison right now. She was convicted of shooting at U.S. soldiers and officials in Afghanistan in 2010. But as far as - for a confirmed motive, we don't know.

MARTIN: And what are some of the other things we still don't know about this standoff? For example, do we know exactly how it ended?

HERNANDEZ: We don't. We know that a hostage rescue team went in and got the three remaining hostages who were being held. One had been released earlier. But - and we know that Akram died. But we don't know how he died. The FBI hasn't said yet. We don't know a motive for sure. We don't know how he got the gun, either. But the FBI says they're still investigating all of these things.

MARTIN: And what have been some of the reactions to this today? I know that the president weighed in. And what did he say? And what are some of the reactions that you've heard, particularly from the Jewish community?

HERNANDEZ: Sure. So President Biden did weigh in. He called the hostage situation a, quote, "act of terror," condemned antisemitism and said the U.S. would not tolerate attacks on synagogues and other houses of worship. And he praised the work of federal and local law enforcement, who were able to end this 10-hour standoff with no injuries to any of the hostages.

And as you said, there's been a huge reaction from the Jewish community to what occurred. One of the founding members of the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue said there was an outpouring from both the community in Colleyville, but also from around the world. Even Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett tweeted that he was relieved and thankful that the hostages had been rescued.

And one of the other points that many are making in responding to this is that it shows that antisemitism is still a persistent threat in this country. The head of the Anti-Defamation League said that threats against synagogues and other Jewish institutions were arguably at their highest level ever. And he called on Congress to increase funding for security measures.

MARTIN: That's NPR's Joe Hernandez. Joe, thank you so much for bringing us up to date.

HERNANDEZ: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.