(New York Jewish Week via JTA) — The British man who held Jews hostage at a Texas synagogue claimed to have planted bombs in New York City, according to the head of a Jewish communal security service in New York.
Some 1,000 people tuned into a briefing on Tuesday evening, presented by UJA-Federation of New York and the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, on Saturday’s hostage-taking at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas.
During the Zoom event, Mitch Silber, executive director of the groups’ Community Security Initiative, offered new details on the New York angle, including an account of the phone calls between the suspect, Malik Faisal Akram, and Rabbi Angela Buchdahl of Manhattan’s Central Synagogue.
Buchdahl had no prior contact with Akram, who according to Silber had learned her name thanks to her prominent social media presence. Akram demanded that one of the hostages, Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, call Buchdahl on her cell phone, and that Akram told Buchdahl that he planned to kill the four hostages unless Aafia Siddiqui, a terrorism suspect serving time at a Texas prison, was released.
“Among Akram’s claims,” said Silber, “were that there were explosives planted in New York and Brooklyn, potentially in and around synagogues, and that he had associates in New York.”
Law enforcement determined this week that there is no basis to these claims.
According to Silber, who said he spoke to Buchdahl directly as she waited in her apartment for members of the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force to arrive, the NYPD also dispatched patrol cars to Central Synagogue and Buchdahl’s apartment building.
Silber also described how Buchdahl contacted the head of security at her synagogue, who subsequently reached out to Silber’s organization. After consulting with the NYPD Intelligence Bureau and other law enforcement agencies, Silber contacted two other Jewish community security services and shared a security alert with synagogues, schools, JCCs and museums in the New York area.
The hostage-taker flew into John F. Kennedy Airport just before New Year’s and reportedly stayed at a hotel on Queens Boulevard before heading to Texas. All four hostages were unhurt and Akram died late Saturday after a standoff that lasted more than 10 hours in the Dallas suburb.