Texas synagogue hostages escaped after throwing chair at kidnapper

The hostages who were held Saturday for almost 11 hours in a synagogue in Texas (USA) they managed to escape unharmed after the temple rabbi threw a chair at the kidnapper, who was later shot dead by the authorities.

This was revealed this Monday by the rabbi of the synagogue of the Beth Israel congregation, Charlie Cytron-Walker, who he was kidnapped along with three other hostages in an event that US President Joe Biden has described as an “act of terrorism”.

It was terrifying. It was overwhelming and we are still processing itCytron-Walker said in an interview with CBS News.

With a gun

The rabbi stated that, on Saturday morning, he himself let the suspect into the synagogue, identified by the FBI as British citizen Malik Faisal Akram, before the “shabbat” church service began.

Thinking that Akram was simply looking for a place to shelter on a cold morning, the rabbi made him a cup of hot tea and he let him stay at the service that Saturday, which was attended by only three other people and which was broadcast live on Facebook.

At a time when his back was to the audience, the rabbi heard the noise of a click and thought that “it could be a gun”, assured in another interview this Monday with the newspaper The New York Times.

While the others prayed, the rabbi approached Akram and said that he could go if he wanted, and at that moment the man pointed a firearm at him.

I wanted to free a prisoner

Cytron-Walker, que had recently received training on how to deal with a threat from someone armed, He said he tried to “stay calm” in the courtroom in the hours that followed, while the suspect “raved” and telephone negotiations with the FBI began.

The kidnapper’s goal was to secure the release of Pakistani scientist Aafia Siddiqui, who is serving a prison sentence in Texas. 86 years in prison for trying to kill US soldiers and agents while detained in Afghanistan.

In the afternoon, the rabbi managed to reassure Akram enough to allow the release of one of the hostages, but then he became more belligerent in his conversations with the FBI and began “more yelling and threatening,” Cytron-Walker told the New York Times.

Another of the hostages was the vice president of the synagogue, Jeffrey Cohen, who explained this Monday on Facebook that, thanks to the security training they had received, they were able to apply a series of strategies that “saved” their lives.

survival strategy

Asked to sit down by Akram, he chose a row with clear access to the exit, and managed to pass along clues to all the hostages so that they gradually moved to places closer to the door, he said.

Image of the device deployed in a hostage kidnapping in Texas.

As the negotiations dragged on, the rabbi noted in his interview with CBS News, he realized that Akram “wasn’t getting what he wanted” and could turn violent.

“I told them (the other hostages) to go awayI threw a chair at the gunman and ran to the door. And the three of us managed to get out without even a shot being fired,” the rabbi said.

Cohen stressed in his Facebook post that he and other hostages “escaped”, and denied that they were “released” by the authorities.