In providing an update Wednesday, Greater Manchester Police announced that the two teenagers arrested Sunday in South Manchester by officers from Counter Terrorism Policing North West had been released without charge after spending three nights in custody.
The nearly 11-hour-standoff at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas – about 15 miles northeast of Fort Worth – ended Saturday night with the 44-year-old alleged gunman, Malik Faisal Akram, dead. While no hostages were killed, Akram was heard demanding the release of Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani national in prison for trying to kill U.S. troops in Afghanistan who was dubbed “Lady Al Qaeda.”
Several reports say the teens taken into custody were Akram’s sons, but police have not confirmed those reports.
Terrorism police also searched an address in North Manchester as part of their investigation.
“CTP North West is continuing to assist with the investigation which is being led by US authorities. Overnight, constrictive meetings with colleagues from the United States have taken place,” Temporary Assistant Chief Constable Dominic Scally said in a statement. “As part of our enquiries, we’re also working with colleagues in other forces and Lancashire Police are working with communities in the Blackburn area to put measures in place to provide reassurance.”
“Communities Defeat Terrorism, and the help and support we get from the public is a vital part of that,” Scally continued. “So we would urge everyone to remain vigilant, and if you do see anything suspicious then please report it, in confidence, to police via the Anti-terrorist hotline or gov.uk/ACT. It won’t ruin lives, but it may well save them.”
Investigators continue to determine how Akram reportedly managed to fly to New York’s JFK Airport and enter the U.S. undetected despite him having a criminal record stretching back decades and previously being entered on the U.K.’s terrorist watch list.
At the same time, the incident in the Texas synagogue has shown renewed light on the radicalization of members of Muslim communities in the U.K., as well as the dangers of antisemitic rhetoric spreading online through social media.
During the Texas standoff, Akram reached out to New York City-based Rabbi Angela Buchdahl, who runs Reform Judaism. The rabbi told her congregation she had no prior connection to the gunman, who wanted her to use her influence to persuade authorities to release Siddiqui from prison in Fort Worth.
The call itself reveals Akram’s deep-rooted antisemitic beliefs, Alan Mendoza, co-founder and executive director of U.K.-based think tank The Henry Jackson Society, explained to Fox News Digital.
“This guy goes from the U.K. to the U.S. to try to free an al Qaeda terrorist, and he takes a synagogue hostage, and how does he think he’s going to achieve the release of her? He calls some rabbis,” Medoza said Tuesday. “Why is he calling these rabbis? It’s because he believes in the ancient conspiracy theory that there is a world Jewish conspiracy and that a rabbi in New York can somehow cause the U.S. government to release this terrorist. That tells you how pernicious these theories are and how their spread is so dangerous. So, you have to drive this stuff off the internet and very quickly do so.”
Radicalization can spread online through social media or in person in the community if there is someone spreading disinformation or radical interpretations of Islam, Mendoza told Fox News Digital.
He pointed to how numerous Islamist groups in the U.K. have been calling for the release of Siddiqui for the past decade, and Akram could have been radicalized to take matters into his own hands.
“Here’s a specific example of how campaigning of this nature,” Mendoza explained, “may well have radicalized people themselves to go free a supposedly innocent woman that we know is a dangerous terrorist. But if you have been fed lies on the subject for 10 years you might think very differently.”
“They claim it was Islamophobia that led to her jailing, that she is an innocent victim, and clearly the drift effect of that may well as persuaded him that he needed to do something dramatic to secure [the] release of an innocent woman being jailed by evil Americans and because she’s a Muslim” Medoza said.
Akram’s brother, Gulbar Akram, has revealed that his parents emigrated from Pakistan in the 1960s and raised six sons in Blackburn, an industrial town in Lancashire, England. During the 1960s, the town attracted many immigrants from Pakistan and India for its now-obsolete mining industry.
Mendoza pointed to a 2016 report called The Casey Review, a study which found that the area of Britain with the biggest problem of integration was Blackburn. He argued that the U.K. government must play a role in stamping out radicalization by forcing the desegregation of these poorer minority neighborhoods.
“This is not a new immigrant family. These parents have these roots. And by all accounts, the rest of the family condemned this incident and don’t agree with what their brother did,” Mendoza said. “The reality is there are 40,000 people on the terrorist watch list. Now to monitor all those people 24/7 would cost an extreme amount of money. So, it’s just not practical to monitor that number of people in the way.”
“The reality is, for the government to get to the root of this, the government must go into some of the things it failed to do so far,” he continued, “which is breaking up and desegregating ghettoized communities, ending no-go zones in cities where people fear to tread with the risk that British law may not go as far as we think it will go. There’s a line in making sure women are not second-class citizens.”