Interest charge

Man faces weapons charge in Texas synagogue standoff

A man who sold the gun which was used in a standoff in which four people were held hostage at a Texas synagogue this month has been charged with a federal firearms felony, have authorities announced on Wednesday.

Henry Williams, 32, who had previously been convicted of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, was charged on Tuesday with being a felon in possession of a firearm, said attorney Chad E. Meacham. American of the Northern District of Texas, in a statement.

The charge was announced hours after police in England arrested two other men on Wednesday in connection with the hostage-taking.

Mr Meacham said Mr Williams, known as Michael, sold a semi-automatic pistol to Malik Faisal Akram two days before Mr Akram used it to take four people hostage inside Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, a suburb of Fort Worth, Jan. 15. Mr. Akram was killed after three of the hostages escaped unharmed. A fourth hostage was freed earlier in the clash.

Federal prosecutors said they linked Mr Williams to Mr Akram, who lived in Blackburn, northern England, through an analysis of cellphone records showing the two had exchanged calls in the days before the hostage-taking. Mr. Williams confirmed he sold the gun to Mr. Akram at an intersection in south Dallas, authorities said.

A lawyer for Mr. Williams could not immediately be reached.

“As a convicted felon, Mr. Williams was prohibited from carrying, acquiring or selling firearms,” Mr. Meacham said. “Whether or not he was aware of his buyer’s nefarious intent is largely irrelevant – criminals can’t have guns, period.”

The men arrested in England on Wednesday were taken into custody in Manchester as part of a local investigation by area counter-terrorism officers, police said in a statement, adding they had ‘worked closely together’ with the authorities of the United States. The men have not been identified, but police said they remain in custody “for questioning”.

The arrests came after revelations from British and US officials that Mr Akram, 44, had been “a subject of interest” on a security watch list maintained by MI5, Britain’s counter-intelligence service. A 2020 agency investigation concluded that Mr. Akram was not a terrorist threat at the time.

Mr Akram visited the United States ahead of the New Year. His brother, Gulbar Akram, described him as deeply troubled by mental health issues, but did not provide further details.

The FBI said during the 11-hour standoff at Congregation Beth Israel, Mr Akram referred to Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist sentenced to 86 years in prison in 2010 for attempting to kill military officers Americans in Afghanistan.

Experts said opposition to Ms Siddiqui’s imprisonment has become a cause cited by jihadist militants in several countries. She is serving her sentence in a prison in Fort Worth, 24 miles from the synagogue targeted by Mr. Akram.

He was shot and killed after the last of the hostages walked out and an FBI team entered the synagogue.

British police have already made several arrests in connection with the standoff in Texas. Two teenagers were arrested on January 16 in Manchester and were later released without charge. Police said they also searched an address in Manchester.

Two other men from the cities of Birmingham and Manchester were arrested and held for questioning on January 20. Police have called on the public to “stay alert” and report any suspicious behavior.