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US US law enforcement officials aim to reassure Jewish community in wake of hostage standoff

06:34  19 january  2022
06:34  19 january  2022 Source:   cnn.com

Texas Synagogue Hostages Taken by Gunman During Livestream Service

  Texas Synagogue Hostages Taken by Gunman During Livestream Service The man allegedly went on several profanity-laced rants while holding the victims hostage.The hostage situation at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville began during the synagogue's live-streamed Shabbat service, according to Reuters. No injuries have been reported inside the building.

Top Biden administration law enforcement officials -- including the FBI director, the attorney general and the Homeland Security secretary -- sought to reassure more than 1,000 members of the Orthodox Jewish community during a teleconference meeting Tuesday that the federal government recognizes the severity of the recent hostage standoff in Texas and is prepared to promote greater security efforts.

A police chaplain walks near the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue in Colleyville, Texas, on Saturday, January 15, 2022. © ANDY JACOBSOHN/AFP/Getty Images A police chaplain walks near the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue in Colleyville, Texas, on Saturday, January 15, 2022.

"It was an absolute recognition that this was a violent attack targeted at the Jewish community," said Nathan Diament, executive director for public policy at the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, which hosted the call.

British national ID’d as hostage-taker at Texas synagogue

  British national ID’d as hostage-taker at Texas synagogue Malik Faisal Akram was shot and killed.Malik Faisal Akram was shot and killed after the last of the hostages got out at around 9 p.m. Saturday at Congregation Beth Israel near Fort Worth. In a statement, the FBI said there was no indication that anyone else was involved, but it didn’t provide a possible motive.

Attorney General Merrick Garland, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and representatives from the White House made very clear, declarative statements that "they understand this was antisemitic, they understand this targeted Jews, they are viewing this as an act of terror ... no ifs, ands or buts," Diament said.

The call follows a warning from the FBI and DHS on Monday that faith-based communities will likely remain targets for violence, which urged state and local partners to evaluate their security postures for mass gatherings and at houses of worship.

"Faith based communities have and will likely continue to be targets of violence by both domestic violent extremists and those inspired by foreign terrorists," said the letter from Paul Abbate, FBI deputy director, and John D. Cohen, the top intelligence official at DHS.

Hostage Taking in a TEXAS synagogue: What we know about this "act of terrorism"

 Hostage Taking in a TEXAS synagogue: What we know about this © Valery Ax The four selected hostage in the synagogue of the Congregation Beth Israel have all been released. Brandon Bell / Getty Images / AFP If a tragedy has been avoided by American law enforcement, the subject is taken very seriously. In the aftermath of the hostage taking in a Colleyville synagogue (about 23,000 inhabitants, about 40 km from Dallas), in Texas, the US authorities launched an "international" survey on the lessee.

During Tuesday's meeting, which was held days after the Colleyville, Texas, hostage standoff at Congregation Beth Israel, FBI and DHS leadership also underscored that synagogue security across the US will benefit from more "two-way communication."

For example, FBI Director Christopher Wray encouraged synagogues to establish direct lines of communication with their local FBI field offices, if they don't already have them.

Officials told the group that the Texas investigation is ongoing and they are looking into the suspect's potential connections to people.

One participant questioned how the suspect was able to get on a plane, go to Texas and purchase weapons, seemingly without any hindrance. The officials on the call did not provide specifics but acknowledged they are reviewing procedures.

The Orthodox Union is the largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization in the country, representing nearly 1,000 synagogues. There were 1,200 to 1,500 representatives in the teleconference, Diament said.

Jewish communities across the US are on heightened alert after the Texas standoff: 'Is our community under attack again?'

  Jewish communities across the US are on heightened alert after the Texas standoff: 'Is our community under attack again?' Jewish communities across the United States once again find themselves on edge in the wake of another attack on worshippers at a synagogue, this time at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas, where a man interrupted Saturday's Shabbat service and held four people hostage for hours. © Andy Jacobsohn/AFP/Getty Images SWAT team members deploy near the Congregation Beth Israel Synagogue in Colleyville, Texas, some 25 miles (40 kilometers) west of Dallas, on January 15, 2022.

Synagogue security is a "top issue" for the group, he said, adding that "the events in Texas have us all reaching out, talking to our congregations, rechecking security protocols and trying to identify more resources, unfortunately, for more security measures."

"Everybody who attends a synagogue, whether it's on a weekly basis on Shabbat or a daily basis, or what have you, everyone, including myself, are thinking that could have just as well been my synagogue, right?" he said.

On the call, DHS discussed the department's efforts to get federal funding to faith-based organizations in order to enhance security.

The Nonprofit Security Grant Program has been "immensely useful," Diament said, noting that proper security measures are very expensive.

However, the grant program is currently funded at $180 million a year, with a goal to get to $360 million a year, Diament said.

Earlier this week, Mayorkas called for an increase in funding, saying that although the $180 million was double the previous year's amount, it was "not nearly enough to meet the demand." DHS will work with Congress to increase funding for the grant program so that faith-based communities have the tools to upgrade security and protect themselves from terrorism, hate crimes and targeted violence, Mayorkas tweeted.

Feds declare hostage standoff at Texas synagogue an act of terrorism, hate crime .
Federal officials on Friday declared the hostage standoff at a Texas synagogue an act of antisemitic terrorism. “Let me be clear,” Assistant to the President for Homeland Security Jill Sanborn said, “the FBI is and has been treating Saturday’s events as an act of terrorism targeting the Jewish community.” She made the remark during a White House call that sought to reassure unnerved Jewish Americans that law enforcement is dedicated to rooting out terroristic violence.

usr: 1
This is interesting!