London (CNN)Two men have been arrested in the UK cities of Birmingham and Manchester as part of the investigation into the Texas synagogue hostage standoff, Greater Manchester Police said Thursday in a statement.
The men remain in custody for questioning as UK officers in a counterterrorism unit support US authorities in probing the incident that has put American Jewish communties on edge. The FBI is investigating Saturday’s standoff as “a terrorism-related matter, in which the Jewish community was targeted,” the bureau has said.
The FBI identified Malik Faisal Akram, a British national, as the man who held four people hostage at a Colleyville, Texas synagogue in an 11-hour standoff. An FBI team killed Akram after one hostage was released and three escaped.
Akram, 44, had been known to UK security services and had been the subject of a brief investigation in 2020, a UK official told CNN on Tuesday. That investigation was closed when authorities determined Akram to no longer be a threat.
In late December, he arrived in the United States via New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, a US law enforcement source familiar with the investigation told CNN.
Investigators believe Akram was motivated in the hostage-taking by a desire to see the release of convicted terrorist Aafia Siddiqui, who is serving an 86-year federal prison sentence in Fort Worth, they’ve said. She was not involved in the Colleyville standoff, her attorney said.
Two teenagers arrested Sunday in south Manchester were released without charge on Tuesday, according to PA Media, a UK-based news agency.
Heroic rabbi set to leave congregation
The hostages’ daring escape late Saturday as Akram’s mood deteriorated was led by Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, who credited security training for preparing them “to act and flee when the situation presented itself.”
Cytron-Walker will leave Congregation Beth Israel in June, spokeswoman Jennifer Farmer told CNN on Wednesday.
“The rabbi had been planning to transition. He’d been with the congregation for 16 years. While this transition was already planned, right now he is singularly focused on healing from the tragedy of the past weekend,” Farmer said.
Travis Caldwell, Amir Vera and Jason Hanna contributed to this report.