How did Malik Akram get visa? Texas synagogue shooter stayed in homeless shelter
After a British gunman with a criminal history took four hostages at a Texas synagogue on Saturday, January 15, an increasing number of people are questioning how the accused even managed to get into the United States when he was known to intelligence agencies in the UK.
On January 22, Malik Faisal Akram, 44, flew to New York City from the UK, despite being known to MI5. Although his family has confirmed that he has a criminal history, he was somehow able to get an ESTA tourist visa - which is typically supposed to be off-limits to people from other countries who have broken the law. He cited the Queens Hotel in New York City as his address upon arrival, which charges $80-a-night for basic accommodation. A receptionist at the hotel was unable to say whether Akram actually ended up staying at the hotel after his arrival in the U.S. The FBI is currently reviewing the CCTV footage from the hotel to verify the same.
It was also reported that Akram spent two weeks at a homeless shelter in Dallas, and was even able to buy a gun on the street. Armed, he arrived at Beth Israel Congregation in the morning on the day of the siege and was welcomed inside by the rabbi. After having a cup of tea with him, Akram aided services at 11 a.m. while the congregation was praying. A nearly 12-hour-long standoff ensued before Akram was shot dead by a SWAT team. None of the hostages were hurt. Police are trying to piece together where the shooter was and what was he doing in the final 48 hours before launching the attack.
How did Malik Faisal Akram get a US visa?
According to Independent, Akram was known to MI5 but the organization didn't consider him a severe threat. ESTA tourist visa asks whether or not applicants have a criminal record. It's unclear what Akram said in his application, which will be subjected to scrutiny as the investigation into his actions leading up to the attack continues. However, according to social justice charity Nacro, the US authorities do not have access to criminal records held on the UK's Police National Computer, Daily Mail reported.
The British Muslim most likely availed an internal flight as he gained entry into the US before appearing at a Texan Christian charity asking for a bed for the night. In the week before the terror attack, he stayed at the Union Gospel Mission in Dallas and was able to buy a handgun "off the street," according to President Joe Biden. The shelter's CEO Bruce Butler told CNN that staff saw the shooter "come and go" from January 6 but they never suspected anything as he never mentioned religion or his plans to attack the synagogue. Butler said: "We were a way station for him. He had a plan. He was very quiet." Akram reportedly checked out on January 13.
How the attack unfolded
Akram entered the synagogue around 11 am on Saturday morning. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the service was live-streamed online. After spewing anti-Semitic abuse, he demanded the release of convicted terrorist Aafia Siddiqui, whom he referred to as his "sister."
The shooter first released one of the four hostages and then proceeded to release two more, who were seen running out of a side door as Akram waved a handgun. He ran back in as he saw police entering the building. FBI stormed the synagogue and started firing bullets and stun grenades. Around 10 pm on Saturday, Akram died.