The family of the British terrorist shot dead by the FBI in a Texas synagogue were involved in trying to negotiate his surrender during a ten-hour standoff.
The gunman, named by US authorities on Sunday night as Malik Faisal Akram,44, from Blackburn in Lancashire, had held four hostages including the rabbi at the Beth Israel synagogue in Colleyville. They were released unharmed.
The news comes as two teenagers were arrested in Manchester on Sunday evening by officers from Counter Terror Policing North West as part of an investigation into the attack.
Greater Manchester Police said: "Two teenagers were detained in south Manchester this evening. They remain in custody for questioning."
President Joe Biden condemned Akram’s storming of the synagogue as an “act of terror” and revealed that the weapons used had been bought “off the street”.
The synagogue had been broadcasting on the internet its Sabbath service livestream when Akram stormed the building. He was heard saying repeatedly: “I am going to die” prior to the broadcast being cut.
US officials said he was demanding the release of Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani terrorist known as ‘Lady Al Qaeda’ who is serving 86 years in a Texas prison for attempting to kill US servicemen in Afghanistan.
His brother Gulbar Akram released a statement last night speaking of their family’s devastation, and of their desperate attempt to induce him to surrender peacefully.
The family said: “We… do not condone any of his actions and would like to sincerely apologise wholeheartedly to all the victims involved in the unfortunate incident.”
Mr Akram said the family had been “sitting in the incident room all last night” at Greenbank police station in Blackburn “until the early hours liaising with Faisal, the negotiators, FBI etc.”
He said his “brother was suffering from mental health issues” but was “confident that he would not harm the hostages”.
He also described as “bull----” reports that the hostages had been rescued by an FBI elite team but had instead been released through a fire exit door.
He added: “A few minutes later a firefight has taken place and he was shot and killed. There was nothing we could have said to him or done that would have convinced him to surrender.”
The FBI are due to fly to the UK today to interview the family. Reports suggest the terrorist was well known to British police and it is unclear when he flew to the US and how he obtained a visa.
Akram arrived in the US in December, landing at New York's JFK airport, a law enforcement official told CNN.
The 44-year-old was not on a US government watchlist and would have cleared vetting processes prior to his arrival, according to the network.
The US law enforcement official said their British counterparts have suggested a preliminary review of their databases have indicated the same.
Residents of 'Texas' safest town' reeling after 'act of terror'
by Rozina Sabur in Colleyville
It was the moment a 200-man team of highly trained negotiators and rescue operatives had spent more than 10 hours working towards.
Around 9.15pm, the door to the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue in Colleyville, Texas opened and the hostages rushed out.
Seconds later, a man holding a gun and wearing a rucksack could be seen peaking his head out of the same door, before rushing back inside.
As an elite FBI hostage rescue team stormed through the building, several rounds of gunfire ran out. Akram was shot dead after the final three hostages ran from the building. A fourth hostage had been released hours earlier. The FBI declined to say whether he was killed by an FBI agent or if the gunshot was self-inflicted.
The full sequence of events is yet to be revealed, but Joe Biden was unequivocal when he addressed the nation.
“This was an act of terror,” the US president said.
The 10-hour standoff had begun at 10.41am on Saturday, when Malik Faisal Akram, a 44-year-old British citizen stormed into the Congregation Beth Israel's sabbath service.
Akram could be heard on the synagogue's live stream ranting and demanding the release of Aafia Siddiqui, the Pakistani neuroscientist dubbed "Lady Al-Qaeda" by the US media following her conviction for the attempted murder of American officers.
Siddiqui was sentenced in 2010 and is currently serving an 86-year sentence in a Texas prison.
During the live feed from the synagogue, Akram could be heard ranting and appeared to repeatedly demand that negotiators “get my sister on the phone”, as well as referring to spending time in England.
At one point, he could be heard asking: “What the f--- is wrong with America?”
He was heard to say “don’t cry for me, I’m going to die” shortly before the live stream cut out.
He reportedly said that he did not want to hurt anyone, and talked about his children, but also repeatedly said he believed he was going to die.
The US president said Akram had purchased a firearm "on the street" after arriving in the US. "Apparently he spent the first night in a homeless shelter," Mr Biden told reporters during an event in Philadelphia.
“Allegedly the assertion was he got the weapons on the street," he said.
Mr Biden declined to elaborate on Akram's motives, but said: “This was an act of terror”.
He added: "Rest assured, we are focused... and making sure that we deal with these kinds of acts".
Mr Biden praised the more than 200 law enforcement officers who had descended on the synagogue during the standoff with Akram.
They included the FBI's elite hostage rescue team in Quantico, Virginia, which flew around 70 officers into the small town to negotiate with the 44-year-old.
In a statement, Akram's family in Blackburn said they had also assisted the FBI by maintaining contact with their relative over the phone from a police incident room in the UK.
“We would like to say that we as a family do not condone any of his actions and would like to sincerely apologise wholeheartedly to all the victims involved in the unfortunate incident," the family said.
Gulbar Akram's statement also criticised reports suggesting his brother's three hostages had been rescued, insisting his brother had "released" them.
An FBI agent said an investigation with "global reach" is now underway.
FBI Special Agent Matthew DeSarno said the investigation would focus on the UK and Israel. FBI investigators have already been in contact with their legal attache offices in London and Tel Aviv.
Mr DeSarno said investigators believe Akram was "singularly focused on one issue and it was not specifically related to the Jewish community".
All four hostages were unharmed and were due to be reunited with their family after the incident, he added.
Liz Truss, the Foreign Secretary, said: "My thoughts are with the Jewish community and all those affected by the appalling act in Texas.
We condemn this act of terrorism and anti-semitism." Britain's ambassador to Washington Dame Karen Pierce said British authorities both in the UK and America were supporting the US investigation.
They included the synagogue's rabbi, Charlie Cytron-Walker. "I am grateful that we made it out. I am grateful to be alive," he said.
Rabbi Cytron-Walker said Akram had become "increasingly belligerent and threatening" towards the end of the standoff.
He said the security training his congregation has previously received helped them "flee when the situation presented itself."
There was a sombre silence across Colleyville on Sunday, a town of 26,000 people around 25 miles northwest of Dallas.
Many of the town's residents - who had been evacuated for much of Saturday - stayed shut up indoors as the heavy police presence remained in force around the Congregation Beth Israel.
Phil, a retired airline worker, and his wife have lived in the town for 25 years. He said he was still coming to terms with what had happened.
"They used to say this is the safest town in Texas," he said, shaking his head. He had heard the flash bangs go off yesterday evening. "It's shocking, it's really shocking".
Jennifer Newell, a 35-year-old member of the Pleasant Run Baptist Church, which sits across the synagogue, was counting her blessings.
Had it not been an unseasonably windy day, Ms Newell and her husband would have been coaching the church's youth baseball team a stone's throw from where the stand-off was unfolding.
"I can only imagine [what might have happened]," she said. "I call them my children. Just the thought of them being over there when all this happened, it's very scary."
The cold wind endured on Sunday, but Ms Newell had braved the chills to come and change the church's outdoor sign.
"Pray for our brothers and sisters," it now reads, an American flag fluttering in the wind beside it.