Hostage-Taker Chose Synagogue Because ‘Jews Have Enough Power To Free ‘Sister”



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    Hostage-Taker Chose Synagogue Because ‘Jews Have Enough Power To Free ‘Sister”

    Malik Faisal Akram, the 44-year-old British national who took four people hostage in a Texas synagogue on Shabbos, specifically decided to take Jewish hostages because he believed that Jews would have enough power to arrange the release of Pakistani prisoner Aafia Siddiqui, one of the four Jews who was held hostage said on Monday. Siddiqui is serving an 86-year sentence in a prison near Colleyville after being convicted in 2010 of attempting to murder US soldiers and officials in Afghanistan. Also known as “Lady al Qaeda,” she became a cause célèbre in the terrorist world, with her release demanded by al Qaeda Full Story

    Malik Faisal Akram, the 44-year-old British national who took four people hostage in a Texas synagogue on Shabbos, specifically decided to take Jewish hostages because he believed that Jews would have enough power to arrange the release of Pakistani prisoner Aafia Siddiqui, one of the four Jews who was held hostage told The Times of Israel (TOA) on Monday.

    Siddiqui is serving an 86-year sentence in a prison near Colleyville after being convicted in 2010 of attempting to murder US soldiers and officials in Afghanistan. Also known as “Lady al Qaeda,” she became a cause célèbre in the terrorist world, with her release demanded by al Qaeda. Akram took the Jews hostage in order to demand her release, referring to her as ‘sister,’ but not in a literal sense, Cohen said.

    “He did not come there to kill Jews … He came here to release [Aafia Siddiqui], and he had bought into the extremely dangerous, antisemitic trope that Jews control everything, that we could call President [Joe] Biden and have him release her,” Jeffrey Cohen told TOA in a Zoom interview.

    Cohen became emotional several times during the interview as he spoke about the difficult moments he endured, like the phone calls he made to his wife and two children – which he thought may be his last – and his thankfulness for having taken an active shooter course.

    “I called my wife and children and left them each a very brief message where I basically said ‘I’m at the synagogue,’” Cohen said. “We have a gunman here who says he’s got a bomb. This may not end well. I love you. Remember me.’”

    “I went to school in Pittsburgh, and I used to regularly walk by Tree of Life,” he added. “Of course we had a very different ending here than we did there, thank G-d.”

    Cohen specifically called on people to take an active shooter class as well, saying: “Make an opportunity to take an active shooter class because that’s what saved our lives. That gave me the forethought to position myself where I did.”

    After being held hostage for 11 hours while Cohen and the other hostages tried to keep Akram calm, at about 8:30 p.m. Akram lost patience and began threatening to shoot them, Cohen said.

    Akram yelled: “Three bullets — one in each of them,” and ordered them to get down on their knees.

    “I was not going to die that way,” Cohen said, and for the first time that day he asserted herself with Akram, staring into his eyes and saying ‘no.”

    “He got a little scared and sat back down.”

    It was shortly afterward that Akram began pouring himself a drink and Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker yelled ‘Run!,’ and threw a chair at Akram, enabling Cohen and the others to escape.

    Cohen ended the interview by conveying a couple of messages to the public.

    “Number one for me — the active shooter course is critical,” he repeated for the second time in the interview.

    “If I could do anything to help encourage anyone, any organization that is having meetings that need to do this, I would,” Cohen said tearfully. “Especially Jewish organizations because we are the target because of all of these horrible tropes.”

    “The second thing is reaching to others, so that it’s harder for them to hate…We try to do that a lot in our community here,” he concluded.

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