FBI: Texas synagogue hostage incident both a 'hate crime' and 'act of terrorism' targeting Jewish community

He said that the hostage takers demands clearly met the definition of terrorism

Officials said during a press conference on Friday that the hostage situation at a synagogue in Colleyville, Texas was both an "act of terrorism" and a "hate crime."

Federal Bureau of Investigations Special Agent in Charge Matthew DeSarno said that the hostage taker's demands clearly met the definition of terrorism.

"This is a federal hate crime. As negotiators began to engage with Akram, he repeatedly demanded the United States release a convicted al-Qaida terrorist in exchange for the safe return of the hostages. In doing so, his actions clearly met the definition of terrorism," DeSarno said.

FBI DIRECTOR CALLS TEXAS HOSTAGE SITUATION 'ACT OF TERRORISM TARGETING THE JEWISH COMMUNITY'

FBI Special Agent In Charge Matthew DeSarno speaks at a news conference near the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue on January 15, 2022 in Colleyville, Texas. 

FBI Special Agent In Charge Matthew DeSarno speaks at a news conference near the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue on January 15, 2022 in Colleyville, Texas.  (Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

Authorities say that Malik Faisal Akram, 44, a British national, entered the Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville on Saturday and took Jewish worshippers hostage.

DeSarno said that after learning that the hostage taker indicated to negotiators that he wanted a convicted terrorist released in exchange for the safe return of the hostages, an international terrorism investigation was "immediately opened."

He noted that as the hostage situation went on, Akram's behavior changed and he became more combative, issuing "ultimatums and deadlines" to authorities.

Just after 9:00 p.m. on Saturday night, DeSarno said that he authorized the FBI's hostage rescue team to enter Congregation Beth Israel, and said that Akram's death "was a result of the deadly force employed by the FBI."

DeSarno also said that the FBI's hostage negotiators were able to get Akram to release one hostage shortly after 5 p.m., and said that food, water, and medical aid was delivered to hostages.

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A law enforcement vehicle sits in front of the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue on January 16, 2022 in Colleyville, Texas. 

A law enforcement vehicle sits in front of the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue on January 16, 2022 in Colleyville, Texas.  (Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

No explosives were recovered from the scene of the incident, the FBI agent said.

DeSarno also said that the FBI is working with international partners on this investigation, and said that the agency believes they have identified anyone who Akram had interactions with while in the Colleyville area, but declined to state if any of them are being considered accomplices at this point.

Charlie Cytron-Walker, the rabbi of Congregation Beth Israel said at the press conference that he was "absolutely in fear of my life" during the hostage situation.

Cytron-Walker said that the other hostages and himself were constantly looking for opportunities to leave, but said it was "very hard to find an opportunity where we all could leave."

All hostages escaped after nearly 11 hours with the hostage-taker dead.

After the hostage situation, FBI Special Agent in Charge Matt DeSarno said that "the Texas synagogue hostage taker's demands were specifically focused on issues not connected to the Jewish community."

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Law enforcement process the scene in front of the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue, Sunday, Jan. 16, 2022, in Colleyville, Texas. 

Law enforcement process the scene in front of the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue, Sunday, Jan. 16, 2022, in Colleyville, Texas.  (AP Photo/Brandon Wade)

Since then, the FBI said that the hostage situation was an "act of terrorism targeting the Jewish community." 

"Now let me be clear and blunt, the FBI is, and has been, treating Saturday’s events as an act of terrorism targeting the Jewish community. Within a matter of hours, we deployed FBI SWAT, two highly trained units from our elite Hostage Rescue Team; those are the folks who ultimately were the ones who went into the synagogue, along with canines," FBI Director Christopher Wray said during a virtual webinar hosted by the Anti-Defamation League.