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FBI calls Texas synagogue hostage crisis a 'hate crime'

FBI calls Texas synagogue hostage crisis a 'hate crime'
Law enforcement personnel investigate the hostage incident at Congregation Beth Israel Synagogue in Colleyville, Texas, on January 15. File Photo by Ralph Lauer/EPA-EFE

Jan. 22 (UPI) -- The FBI has declared last week's hostage crisis at a Texas synagogue a "hate crime" and "an act of terrorism" despite initially believing the attacker didn't specifically target the Jewish community.

The FBI's Dallas Field Office on Friday provided an update on the attack at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville.

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British national Malik Faisal Akram took four people hostage at the synagogue Jan. 15 before being shot to death by authorities. All four members of the synagogue escaped safely.

"The FBI is, and has been, treating Saturday's events as an act of terrorism targeting the Jewish community," FBI Special Agent in Charge Matthew DeSarno said Friday. "Brought about by a terrorist, espousing an anti-Semitic worldview. It was an intentional, targeted, selected location: Congregation Beth Israel."

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Law enforcement agencies believe Akram may have been motivated by a desire to secure the release of convicted terrorist Aafia Siddiqui, who is currently jailed at Carswell Air Force Base's Federal Medical Center near Fort Worth, which is located about 20 miles from the synagogue.

"Before Malik Faisal Akram ever made a single demand to law enforcement, he committed a felony when he forcibly kidnapped four hostages while they exercised their right to worship at Congregation Beth Israel. This is a federal hate crime," the FBI said.

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Friday's news conference was a departure from statements DeSarno made immediately after the attack, when he said Akram was "singularly focused on one issue and it was not specifically related to the Jewish community."

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