The release of Aafia Siddiqui, a prisoner at Carswell Air Force Base near Fort Worth, was demanded by Malik Faisal Akram when he took four people hostage at a Texas synagogue on Saturday.

The 44-year-old British citizen called Aafia his “sister” in the movement – though the two are unrelated – and requested that she be released from prison in exchange for the four hostages.

Though Akram was later killed in a “shooting incident” with the FBI, authorities investigating what happened believe that setting Aafia free could have been the hostage-taker’s main motive.

According to NBC News, Aafia Siddiqui, 49, is a Pakistani neuroscientist who was convicted of attempted murder for trying to kill American soldiers in Afghanistan in 2010. Police later found detailed plans for a “mass casualty attack” in New York City on her person, and she was given an 86-year sentence in Texas.

Aafia’s release has long been sought by Islamic militants. Her name was brought up in hostage exchanges for James Foley, the American journalist who later beheaded by extremists from the Islamic state, and Warren Weinstein, a U.S. Agency for International Development employee who was captured by Ayman al-Zawahri, a prominent leader of al-Qaeda.

Marwa Elbially, Aafia Siddiqui’s attorney, told NBC News that she does not condone violence (despite the attack), and that she was unaware of Malik Faisal Akram’s hostage situation. She made no mention of whether she knew the man or supported his call for her to be released.

The Air Force Base she is being held at is just 20 miles away from the Texas synagogue that Malik Faisal Akram targeted.

Malik Faisal Akram, the Texas synagogue hostage-taker who called for the release of Aafia Siddiqui
Malik Faisal Akram, the Texas synagogue hostage-taker who called for the release of Aafia Siddiqui. Photo Credit: Colleyville Texas Police

It is also unknown if Akram had any other demands, or if the hostage situation at Congregation Beth Israel should be considered a terrorist attack. Though nothing has linked Malik Faisal Akram to any intent to hurt his hostages, the FBI has stated that the incident was a targeted attack on the Jewish people.

“This is a terrorism-related matter, in which the Jewish community was targeted, and is being investigated by the Joint Terrorism Task Force,” a statement from the FBI read.

President Joe Biden told reporters on Sunday that he was also briefed about the Texas synagogue incident and declared it “an act of terror.”

Luckily, no one was killed, and the four hostages were released following a shootout between Akram and law enforcement. Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, leader of Congregation Beth Israel, was later praised for keeping calm and protecting thee other hostages during the 11-hour standoff.

Akram allegedly arrived at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York on Dec. 31, traveling from London. According to ABC News, authorities believe that he stayed at homeless shelters as he made his way to Texas, gaining access to Congregation Beth Israel during Shabbat services.

The hostage-taker also threatened that he had the building rigged with explosives, but no evidence of explosives was found on the premises.

Two UK teens were arrested by Manchester Police in London Sunday night in connection to the hostage situation, but their names have yet to be released by authorities. According to UK police, the two teenagers were arrested “as part of the ongoing investigation into the attack,” but it was not revealed how they were connected.

Akram’s brother Gulbar later released a statement through the Blackburn Muslim Community’s Facebook page, according to BCC News, stating that his brother was suffering from mental health issues before the attack. He also apologized to the victims on behalf of his family.

“We would like to say that we as a family do not condone any of his actions and would like to sincerely apologize wholeheartedly to all the victims involved in the unfortunate incident,” Gulbar wrote.

“We would also like to add,” he continued, “that any attack on any human being be it a Jew, Christian or Muslim, etc., is wrong and should always be condemned.”