The British man who took hostages at a synagogue in Texas was investigated by MI5 over a year ago, but intelligence agents concluded that he was no threat.
MI5 investigated Malik Faisal Akram from Blackburn, northern England, as a potential Islamic terror threat, but closed it. As a result he was able to fly to the US between Christmas and New Year and buy a gun.
The 44-year-old was killed in a hail of bullets by an FBI hostage rescue team on Saturday night, following a ten-hour standoff with police after he had taken four people hostage.
Akram wanted the release of Aafia Siddiqui, dubbed “Lady Al Qaeda”, a terrorist serving an 86-year sentence for planning a cyanide attack on the Empire State Building and Brooklyn Bridge in New York.
All four hostages, including Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, survived unharmed. US President Joe Biden called the incident an “act of terror”. British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss described it as an “act of terrorism and anti-Semitism”.
It has now emerged that Akram was known to British intelligence but they did not believe he was a threat.
A Whitehall source told the Telegraph: “Malik Akram was known to MI5 and was the subject of a short lead investigation in 2020.
“The investigation was opened in the second part of 2020 and was closed shortly afterwards with an assessment that there was no indication he presented a terrorist threat at that time.”
At any one time, MI5 are conducting 500 active counter-terror investigations involving 3,000 subjects of interest. Sources told the Telegraph that it would be disproportionate to stop thousands of people who had been brought to their attention at some point from travelling.
The admission will nevertheless be embarrassing to the agency.
The first leader of the inquiry, Lord Carlile, was dropped by the government after criticism that he could not gain the trust of communities necessary to the review’s success. The appointment of his successor, William Shawcross, was met with a boycott of a review by human rights and Muslim groups. In previous remarks as leader of think-tank the Henry Jaackson society, Shawcross said, “Europe and Islam is one of the greatest, most terrifying problems of our future."