British police said on Wednesday they were holding two more men in connection with an armed hostage-taking incident at a Texas synagogue by a man from northwest England.
Malik Faisal Akram, 44, from Blackburn, was shot dead by the FBI after a 10-hour siege in the small town of Colleyville in mid-January. His four hostages, including a rabbi, were all freed unharmed.
“As part of the local investigation, two men have been arrested this morning in Manchester,” the Counter Terrorism Policing force for northwest England said in a statement. “They remain in custody for questioning.”
Police have also questioned three other men in Manchester, and another in the central English city of Birmingham.
Akram had planned the attack for two years, wanting to die as a “martyr”, according to audio of the last phone call with his brother released by the London-based Jewish Chronicle newspaper.
The attack was staged in an apparent bid to win the release of Aafia Siddiqui, who has been jailed for the attempted murder of US soldiers in Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, a man who allegedly sold a gun used by a British man to take hostages at the synagogue has been charged with a federal firearms crime.
US authorities say that Henry “Michael” Williams, 32, sold a pistol to Malik Faisal Akram two days before the hostage taking.
Williams has now been charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm.
According to a criminal complaint released by the US Department of Justice on Wednesday, Williams had previously been convicted of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and attempted possession of a controlled substance.
On 13 January, he is alleged to have sold Akram a semiautomatic pistol, which authorities say Akram used during the hostage incident at Beth Israel synagogue in Colleyville, Texas, on 15 January.
An FBI analysis of Akram’s phone later found he had exchanged several phone calls with Williams between 11 and 13 January.
When interviewed by FBI agents on 16 January, Williams told officers he recalled meeting a man with a British accent but could not remember his name, according to the justice department.
When interviewed a second time this week, following an arrest for an outstanding state warrant, Williams was shown a photograph of Akram and confirmed that he had sold him the pistol in Dallas.
Williams allegedly told officers that Akram said the gun would be used to intimidate someone who had owed him money.
“As a convicted felon, Williams was prohibited from carrying, acquiring or selling firearms,” US Attorney Chad E Meacham said in a statement. “Whether or not he knew of his buyer’s nefarious intent is largely irrelevant – felons cannot have guns, period.”
Williams made an initial court appearance at a federal court in Dallas on Wednesday afternoon. A detention hearing has been scheduled for 31 January.