Britain's MI5 decided Texas synagogue hostage-taker Malik Akram posed no terror risk

His family say they were shocked that he was allowed to leave the UK

Malik Faisal Akram, left, and the Congregation Beth Israel Synagogue in Colleyville. Photo: Handout / Getty Images
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British intelligence chiefs closed an investigation into Texas hostage-taker Malik Faisal Akram after agents recommended no further action after assessing whether he was a possible terrorist threat.

With the fallout gathering speed over the death of a man who had allegedly concealed his criminal record and vaccine status, his family said on Tuesday they were shocked to learn that he had left the UK.

Akram was shot dead by US police after a 10-hour stand-off at a synagogue in Dallas where he had taken four people hostage.

During the incident he demanded the release of Al Qaeda terrorist Aafia Siddiqui, who is serving a sentence at a Texas prison.

On Tuesday, Whitehall briefings revealed that Akram was known to Britain's internal security service MI5 and had been investigated in 2020 as a possible terrorism threat before officers decided to take no further action. It had spent four weeks making an assessment of Akram but concluded he posed no terror risk. There was therefore no reason to prevent him travelling abroad.

He was a petty criminal with a string of convictions dating back more than 20 years and had served three prison sentences. He had previously been labelled a “menace” after telling judicial officials he wished they had died on an Al Qaeda-hijacked plane on September 12, 2001.

Gulbar Akram, the dead man's brother, expressed incredulity that his brother was even allowed to fly to the US. He said his brother did not believe in Covid-19 vaccinations and questioned how he was able to enter the US because of his criminal past.

“A guy from Blackburn gets on a plane and doesn’t get questioned. He is also anti-vax. How did he get a visa?” he said.

British politician Bob Seely has called for the intelligence failings in the case to be examined, questioning how Akram's background was not picked up by the authorities.

“This is clearly a failure of intelligence sharing. It is absolutely dreadful that he has been allowed to go to the States and hurt people,” he told MailOnline. “Clearly something has gone wrong somewhere.”

Akram's time in jail included a stint in HMP Liverpool, a prison named as one of Britain’s worst by government inspectors during his incarceration, and it has been reported concerns were raised about his possible radicalisation. The prison has several extremist inmates, official data shows.

It has also been revealed he was a member of Tablighi Jamaat, an organisation banned by Saudi Arabia.

His family issued a statement on Tuesday in which they said they were not aware he had left the country.

“We are deeply saddened of the events of the past few days. We don’t want to make this about us. We think about what the victims went through. There were people who were fearful for their lives,” they said.

“We feel a great deal of pain for those who went through this. We hope nothing like this happens again in the future.

“As a family, it has been traumatic and devastating. Our brother has gone, but the victims didn’t choose to be in this situation and we can only feel for them. We were not aware that he had left the country. It has come as a complete shock to us.”

Akram arrived in the US on January 2 and authorities believe he bought a gun on the street and stayed in a homeless shelter before Saturday's events.

Later on Tuesday, Manchester Police annnounced that two teenagers arrested in south Manchester as part of an investigation into the siege have been released without charge, a police statement said.

“An address in north Manchester has been searched as part of the Counter-Terrorism Policing North West investigation," the statement read.

Temporary Assistant Chief Constable Dominic Scally, of Counter-Terrorism Policing North West, said: “CTP North West is continuing to assist with the investigation which is being led by US authorities.

“Overnight, constructive meetings with colleagues from the United States have taken place.

“As part of our inquiries, we’re also working with colleagues in other forces and Lancashire Police are working with communities in the Blackburn area to put measures in place to provide reassurance.”

Updated: January 19, 2022, 6:14 AM