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White House: Texas hostage-taker had raised no red flags

Shortly after 5 p.m., local time, authorities escort a hostage out of the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue in Colleyville, Texas, Saturday, Jan. 15,...
Congregation Beth Israel Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, facing camera, hugs a man after a healing service Monday night, Jan. 17, 2022, at White’s Chapel...
Congregation Beth Israel Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, left, walks into a healing service with an unidentified man Monday night, Jan. 17, 2022, at Whit...
Community members arrive for a healing service for Congregation Beth Israel following Saturday's standoff at the Colleyville, Texas, synagogue, at Whi...
Community members arrive for a healing service for Congregation Beth Israel following Saturday's standoff at the Colleyville, Texas, synagogue, at Whi...
Law enforcement process the scene in front of the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue, Sunday, Jan. 16, 2022, in Colleyville, Texas. A man held hostage...
An aerial view of police standing in front of the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue, Sunday, Jan. 16, 2022, in Colleyville, Texas. A man held hostage...
Colleyville police Chief Michael Miller addresses reporters in a nearby parking lot after the conclusion of a SWAT operation at Congregation Beth Isra...
A law enforcement official stands patrol on a main road leading to Congregation Beth Israel synagogue where a man had held hostages for hours on Satur...
Police stand in front of the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue, Sunday, Jan. 16, 2022, in Colleyville, Texas. A man held hostages for more than 10 ho...
Matthew J. DeSarno, Special Agent in Charge of the Dallas FBI Field Office, far right, shakes hands with fellow law enforcement officers after address...
A Texas state trooper blocks traffic on a road leading to a Colleyville, Texas, synagogue where a man apparently took hostages, Saturday, Jan. 15, 202...
Law enforcement officials block a residential street near Congregation Beth Israel synagogue where a man took hostages during services on Saturday, Ja...
CORRECTS BYLINE TO SMILEY N. POOL INSTEAD OF LYNDA M. GONZALEZ - Law enforcement teams stage near Congregation Beth Israel while conducting SWAT opera...
Law enforcement officials gather at a local school near the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue on Saturday, Jan. 15, 2022 in Colleyville, Texas. (AP P...
Emergency responders gather at Colleyville Elementary School near Congregation Beth Israel synagogue on Saturday, Jan. 15, 2022, in Colleyville, Texas...
Law enforcement officials block Pleasant Run Road near Congregation Beth Israel synagogue where a man took hostages during services on Saturday, Jan. ...
CORRECTS BYLINE TO ELIAS VALVERDE INSTEAD OF LYNDA M. GONZALEZ - Law enforcement teams stage near Congregation Beth Israel while conducting SWAT opera...
Law enforcement teams stage near Congregation Beth Israel while conducting SWAT operations in the 6100 block of Pleasant Run Road on Saturday, Jan. 15...
Law enforcement officials gather at Colleyville Elementary School near the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue on Saturday, Jan. 15, 2022 in Colleyvill...
CORRECTS BYLINE TO ELIAS VALVERDE INSTEAD OF LYNDA M. GONZALEZ - A police officer blocks a street near Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas ...
CORRECTS BYLINE TO SMILEY N. POOL INSTEAD OF LYNDA M. GONZALEZ - Emergency teams stage near Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas on Saturday...
Colleyville police Chief Michael Miller addresses reporters in a nearby parking lot after the conclusion of a SWAT operation at Congregation Beth Isra...
Colleyville police Chief Michael Miller addresses reporters in a nearby parking lot after the conclusion of a SWAT operation at Congregation Beth Isra...
Colleyville police Chief Michael Miller, center in blue jacket, shakes hands with fellow law enforcement officers after addressing reporters after the...
Colleyville police Chief Michael Miller addresses reporters in a nearby parking lot after the conclusion of a SWAT operation at Congregation Beth Isra...
Matthew J. DeSarno, Special Agent in Charge of the Dallas FBI Field Office, addresses reporters in a nearby parking lot after the conclusion of a SWAT...
Law enforcement officials talk to each other after a news conference where they announced that all hostages at Congregation Beth Israel synagogue were...
President Joe Biden speaks with members of the press about the Texas synagogue hostage incident before volunteering with first lady Jill Biden, back r...
Law enforcement process the scene in front of the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue, Sunday, Jan. 16, 2022, in Colleyville, Texas. A man held hostage...
Charlie Cytron-Walker, rabbi of Congregation Beth Israel, center, makes a statement to the media after a service at White's Chapel United Methodist Ch...
Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker makes a statement to the media after the service at White's Chapel United Methodist Church in Southlake,  Texas, Monday, J...
FILE - Police vehicles stand in front of Congregation Beth Israel synagogue, Sunday, Jan. 16, 2022, in Colleyville, Texas. A White House spokeswoman s...
This Jan. 2, 2022 photo provided by OurCalling, LLC shows Malik Faisal Akram, at a Dallas homeless shelter. Akram, the armed man who took four people ...
Congregants and community members leave White's Chapel United Methodist Church in Southlake, Texas, Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. The church held a healing s...

Shortly after 5 p.m., local time, authorities escort a hostage out of the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue in Colleyville, Texas, Saturday, Jan. 15,...

Congregation Beth Israel Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, facing camera, hugs a man after a healing service Monday night, Jan. 17, 2022, at White’s Chapel...

Congregation Beth Israel Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, left, walks into a healing service with an unidentified man Monday night, Jan. 17, 2022, at Whit...

Community members arrive for a healing service for Congregation Beth Israel following Saturday's standoff at the Colleyville, Texas, synagogue, at Whi...

Community members arrive for a healing service for Congregation Beth Israel following Saturday's standoff at the Colleyville, Texas, synagogue, at Whi...

Law enforcement process the scene in front of the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue, Sunday, Jan. 16, 2022, in Colleyville, Texas. A man held hostage...

An aerial view of police standing in front of the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue, Sunday, Jan. 16, 2022, in Colleyville, Texas. A man held hostage...

Colleyville police Chief Michael Miller addresses reporters in a nearby parking lot after the conclusion of a SWAT operation at Congregation Beth Isra...

A law enforcement official stands patrol on a main road leading to Congregation Beth Israel synagogue where a man had held hostages for hours on Satur...

Police stand in front of the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue, Sunday, Jan. 16, 2022, in Colleyville, Texas. A man held hostages for more than 10 ho...

Matthew J. DeSarno, Special Agent in Charge of the Dallas FBI Field Office, far right, shakes hands with fellow law enforcement officers after address...

A Texas state trooper blocks traffic on a road leading to a Colleyville, Texas, synagogue where a man apparently took hostages, Saturday, Jan. 15, 202...

Law enforcement officials block a residential street near Congregation Beth Israel synagogue where a man took hostages during services on Saturday, Ja...

CORRECTS BYLINE TO SMILEY N. POOL INSTEAD OF LYNDA M. GONZALEZ - Law enforcement teams stage near Congregation Beth Israel while conducting SWAT opera...

Law enforcement officials gather at a local school near the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue on Saturday, Jan. 15, 2022 in Colleyville, Texas. (AP P...

Emergency responders gather at Colleyville Elementary School near Congregation Beth Israel synagogue on Saturday, Jan. 15, 2022, in Colleyville, Texas...

Law enforcement officials block Pleasant Run Road near Congregation Beth Israel synagogue where a man took hostages during services on Saturday, Jan. ...

CORRECTS BYLINE TO ELIAS VALVERDE INSTEAD OF LYNDA M. GONZALEZ - Law enforcement teams stage near Congregation Beth Israel while conducting SWAT opera...

Law enforcement teams stage near Congregation Beth Israel while conducting SWAT operations in the 6100 block of Pleasant Run Road on Saturday, Jan. 15...

Law enforcement officials gather at Colleyville Elementary School near the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue on Saturday, Jan. 15, 2022 in Colleyvill...

CORRECTS BYLINE TO ELIAS VALVERDE INSTEAD OF LYNDA M. GONZALEZ - A police officer blocks a street near Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas ...

CORRECTS BYLINE TO SMILEY N. POOL INSTEAD OF LYNDA M. GONZALEZ - Emergency teams stage near Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas on Saturday...

Colleyville police Chief Michael Miller addresses reporters in a nearby parking lot after the conclusion of a SWAT operation at Congregation Beth Isra...

Colleyville police Chief Michael Miller addresses reporters in a nearby parking lot after the conclusion of a SWAT operation at Congregation Beth Isra...

Colleyville police Chief Michael Miller, center in blue jacket, shakes hands with fellow law enforcement officers after addressing reporters after the...

Colleyville police Chief Michael Miller addresses reporters in a nearby parking lot after the conclusion of a SWAT operation at Congregation Beth Isra...

Matthew J. DeSarno, Special Agent in Charge of the Dallas FBI Field Office, addresses reporters in a nearby parking lot after the conclusion of a SWAT...

Law enforcement officials talk to each other after a news conference where they announced that all hostages at Congregation Beth Israel synagogue were...

President Joe Biden speaks with members of the press about the Texas synagogue hostage incident before volunteering with first lady Jill Biden, back r...

Law enforcement process the scene in front of the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue, Sunday, Jan. 16, 2022, in Colleyville, Texas. A man held hostage...

Charlie Cytron-Walker, rabbi of Congregation Beth Israel, center, makes a statement to the media after a service at White's Chapel United Methodist Ch...

Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker makes a statement to the media after the service at White's Chapel United Methodist Church in Southlake, Texas, Monday, J...

FILE - Police vehicles stand in front of Congregation Beth Israel synagogue, Sunday, Jan. 16, 2022, in Colleyville, Texas. A White House spokeswoman s...

This Jan. 2, 2022 photo provided by OurCalling, LLC shows Malik Faisal Akram, at a Dallas homeless shelter. Akram, the armed man who took four people ...

Congregants and community members leave White's Chapel United Methodist Church in Southlake, Texas, Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. The church held a healing s...

DALLAS (AP) — The gunman who took four people hostage at a Texas synagogue in a 10-hour standoff that ended in his death was checked against law enforcement databases before entering the U.S. but raised no red flags, the White House said Tuesday.

Malik Faisal Akram, a 44-year-old British citizen, arrived in the U.S. at Kennedy Airport in New York on a tourist visa about two weeks ago, officials said. He spent time in Dallas-area homeless shelters before the attack Saturday in the suburb of Colleyville.

Akram was not believed to be included in the Terrorist Screening Database, a listing of known or suspected terrorists maintained by the FBI and shared with a variety of federal agencies, two law enforcement officials told The Associated Press. Had he been included, it would have been extremely difficult for him to get into the country.

“Our understanding, and obviously we’re still looking into this, is that he was checked against U.S. government databases multiple times prior to entering the country, and the U.S. government did not have any derogatory information about the individual in our systems at the time of entry,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.

She added: “We’re certainly looking back ... what occurred to learn every possible lesson we can to prevent attacks like this in the future.”

British media, including the Guardian, reported Tuesday that Akram was investigated by the domestic intelligence service MI5 as a possible “terrorist threat” in 2020, but authorities concluded he posed no danger, and the investigation was closed.

Britain’s Home Office did not immediately comment on the reports.

The case illustrated once more the difficulties in identifying potential lone-wolf attackers, despite the U.S. government's enormous strides in its counterterrorism efforts since 9/11.

The standoff in Colleyville, a city of about 26,000 people 30 miles (48 kilometers) northwest of Dallas, ended after the last of the hostages ran out of the synagogue and an FBI SWAT team rushed in. Akram was killed, though authorities have declined to say who shot him.

President Joe Biden called the episode an act of terror.

Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, who was among the hostages, told CBS that he had let Akram into Congregation Beth Israel because he appeared to need shelter. The rabbi said the man wasn't threatening or suspicious at first, but later he heard a gun click as he was praying.

One hostage was released hours later, and the rabbi and two others later escaped after Cytron-Walker threw a chair at the gunman.

During the standoff, Akram could be heard on a Facebook livestream demanding the release of Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist who is suspected of having ties to al-Qaida and was convicted of trying to kill U.S. troops in Afghanistan. The prison where Siddiqui is serving her sentence is in nearby Fort Worth.

An attorney in Texas who represents Siddiqui said the prisoner had no connection to Akram.

The investigation stretched to England, where over the weekend police announced two teenagers were in custody in connection with the standoff. The teenagers are Akram’s sons, two U.S. law enforcement officials told AP. The officials were not authorized to discuss the investigation and spoke on condition of anonymity.

On Tuesday, police in Britain said the teenagers had been released without charge.

Akram is from the English industrial city of Blackburn. His family said he had been “suffering from mental health issues.”

Investigators believe he had initially traveled to New York believing that Siddiqui was still being held there — where her trial occurred — without realizing she had been sent to a federal prison in Texas.

During the standoff, Akram forced Cytron-Walker to call Angela Buchdahl, the senior rabbi at New York’s Central Synagogue, in a bid to win Siddiqui's release. In at least one subsequent call, Akram ranted and demanded that Buchdahl try to get Siddiqui freed, an official said. Buchdahl called 911 and reported the calls to New York City police.

Investigators are still sorting through Akram’s movements in the U.S. and reviewing his financial and phone records, but believe he may have traveled by bus to Texas, two of the officials said.

Authorities believe he bought the handgun used in the hostage-taking in a private sale, according to a person familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is still going on.

In another major terrorism case, Omar Mateen, who killed 49 people at an Orlando, Florida, nightclub in 2016, had been investigated repeatedly by the FBI but not charged. The Orlando massacre and other attacks prompted the FBI to launch an internal review of how it handled tips and leads in terrorism investigations.

___

Balsamo and Tucker reported from Washington. Also contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Paul J. Weber and Acacia Coronado in Austin; Colleen Long in Washington; Jamie Stengle in Dallas; and Jill Lawless in London.


Updated : 2022-05-26 09:58 GMT+08:00