Scene of hostage taking in Texas
Scene of hostage taking in TexasREUTERS/Shelby Tauber

Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker of Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas, who was held captive in his synagogue along with three members of his congregation on Saturday, said on Sunday that the hostages were prepared to act and took the opportunity to flee as the gunman became more threatening.

“In the last hour of our hostage crisis, the gunman became increasingly belligerent and threatening,” he said in an emailed statement quoted by the Fort Worth Star Telegram. “Without the instruction we received, we would not have been prepared to act and flee when the situation presented itself.”

Cytron-Walker and Michael Finfer, president of Congregation Beth Israel, said in the joint statement that members of the congregation had security training.

“Over the years, my congregation and I have participated in multiple security courses from the Colleyville Police Department, the FBI, the Anti-Defamation League, and Secure Community Network,” Cytron-Walker said. “We are alive today because of that education. I encourage all Jewish congregations, religious groups, schools, and others to participate in active-shooter and security courses.”

“We know that a situation of this magnitude could increase the concern many of us live with on a day-to-day basis due to antisemitism,” added Finfer. “It is important to note that this was a random act of violence. Indeed, there was a one in a million chance that the gunman picked our congregation. Further, the FBI is confirming that the attacker appeared to be working alone.”

“There is no question that this was a traumatic experience. We appreciate all the love, prayers and support from our local community and throughout the world. We are grateful for the outcome. We are resilient and we will recover,” Cytron-Walker concluded.

Earlier on Sunday, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett spoke with Rabbi Cytron-Walker and expressed his solidarity and support following the hostage incident that took place on Saturday.

Rabbi Cytron-Walker shared with the Prime Minister his harrowing account of the incident, the courageous rescue by law enforcement teams and the resilience of his Jewish community.

Prime Minister Bennett said, “I was so relieved to hear that you and the other hostages are safe and sound. Your leadership in this time of crisis was admirable. Israel stands united with the Jewish community in Colleyville.”

“I was praying here for your safety together with the rest of Israel and we are so relieved that you’re ok. Please send strength to your congregation. We are brothers.”

Also on Sunday, the gunman who burst into the Dallas-area synagogue and held four people hostage for hours was identified as 44-year-old Malik Faisal Akram, a citizen of the UK.

Akram’s name was released by the FBI after the British government confirmed that the gunman involved in Saturday’s hostage situation in Colleyville, Texas was a British national.

Later, police in Britain arrested two teenagers in connection with the attack on the Texas synagogue.

The Manchester Evening News reported that the two teens were detained in south Manchester by officers from Counter Terror Policing North West and remain in custody for questioning.