Overnight Defense

Overnight Defense & National Security — Texas hostage situation rattles nation

It’s Monday, welcome to Overnight Defense & National Security, your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond. Subscribe here: thehill.com/newsletter-signup. 

The nation was rattled this weekend by a nearly ten-hour hostage situation at a synagogue in Colleyville, Texas.   

More on that, plus former Defense chief Christopher Miller meeting with the House committee investigating the Capitol riot, and Russia denying allegations from the US that it is preparing a ‘false flag’ operation as the pretext to an invasion of Ukraine  

For The Hill, I’m Jordan Williams. Write me with tips at jwilliams@thehill.com 

Let’s get to it. 

Ten-hour hostage taking shakes U.S. 

The nation was rattled on Saturday by an hours-long hostage situation at a synagogue in Colleyville, Texas.  

The situation at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas started around 10:30 a.m., with local police, the FBI, the Texas Department of Public Safety and the North Tarrant Regional SWAT team responding to the scene. 

The four hostages, one of which was a rabbi, were all released over ten hours later.  

The FBI on Sunday identified the gunman who held hostages as a British national named Malik Faisal Akram. He was pronounced dead.   

What the suspect wanted: Akram demanded the release of Pakistani neuroscientist Aafia Siddiqui, who is currently imprisoned in Texas for attempting to murder a U.S. soldier.  

Siddiqui has long been accused of helping militant Islamist groups, with terrorist organizations such as ISIS and the Taliban demanding her release. 

Marwa Elbially, Siddiqui’s attorney, told The Hill on Saturday that her client condemned the hostage-taking and that she “specifically made clear that she wants no violence in her name.” 

Elbially also dismissed suggestions that the gunman was Siddiqui’s brother, after Akram reportedly called Siddiqui a sister during the situation. 

“It didn’t even seem remotely plausible,” said the attorney. “I don’t even know why the assumption was made that it was her brother.” 

‘Too soon’ to tell broader threat: National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan on Sunday said it is “too soon to tell” if the Texas synagogue hostage situation was part of a broader extremist threat. 

“It’s too soon to tell at this point what the full parameters of this act of terrorism, this act of anti-Semitism were,” Sullivan told moderator Margaret Brennan on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”  

He added that various law enforcement and intelligence agencies were looking into “what this person’s motives were and whether or not there are any further connections.” 

Family apologizes: Akram’s brother, Gulbar Akram issued an apology to the hostages on behalf of is family 

He said his family does not “condone any of his actions and would like to sincerely apologise wholeheartedly to all the victims involved in the unfortunate incident,” Gulbar Akram says in a statement obtained by Sky News.  

“There was nothing we could have said to him or done that would have convinced him to surrender,” he said.  

Read the weekend’s coverage of the situation 

Milley test positive for COVID-19

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley tested positive for COVID-19 on Sunday and is isolating. 

Col. Dave Butler, spokesperson for the Joint Staff, said in a statement that Milley is experiencing “very minor symptoms” and can perform his duties remotely.  

Butler said Milley is fully vaccinated against the coronavirus and has received a booster vaccine dose. 

All other Joint Chiefs of Staff, except for one, tested negative for COVID-19. Officials have not said who that one was. 

Other defense officials’ COVID tests: Also on Monday, the Marine Corps announced that its Commandant Gen. David Berger tested positive for COVID-19. 

“The performance of his duties will remain unaffected,” commandant spokesperson Maj. Eric Flanagan said in a statement to The Hill. 

Milley and Flanagan are the latest top Defense officials to test positive for COVID-19 this month. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced on Jan. 2 he had tested positive. He also experienced mild symptoms and worked remotely. 

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby reported last week that Austin tested negative and began returning to the office.  

Read the full story here 

Miller meets with Jan. 6 panel  

Former acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller, who served under former President Trump, met last week with the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, according to NBC News. 

A source familiar with the committee’s activities told NBC that Miller, who was the acting Defense secretary at the time of the attack, met with the panel on Friday, though it is unclear exactly what was discussed. As NBC noted, Miller’s former chief of staff Kash Patel also met with the panel last month. 

Miller’s views on Jan. 6:  Though several Trump White House staffers and Cabinet members resigned following the attack, Miller stayed on until President Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20. 

Miller previously accused former President Trump of being responsible for inciting the deadly attack on the Capitol. 

During an interview with Vice in March, Miller said, “Would anybody have marched on the Capitol, and tried to overrun the Capitol, without the president’s speech? I think it’s pretty much definitive that wouldn’t have happened.” 

“The question is, did he know he was enraging people to do that? I don’t know,” he added. 

Refusal to comply: Miller’s reported meeting came days after House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) adamantly refused to comply with the committee’s request to speak with the panel of lawmakers. 

“As a representative and the leader of the minority party, it is with neither regret nor satisfaction that I have concluded to not participate with this select committee’s abuse of power that stains this institution today and will harm it going forward,” McCarthy said Wednesday. 

Read the full story here 

A MESSAGE FROM HUAWEI

 

 

Russia denies ‘false flag’ allegations

Russia is dismissing U.S. allegations that Moscow has plans for a false flag operation as pretext to invade Ukraine as “total disinformation.” 

The rejection from Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, as reported in The Associated Press, comes after Pentagon press secretary John Kirby told reporters on Friday that U.S. intelligence believes Russia is working to create a pretext for a potential invasion of Ukraine. 

A U.S. official also confirmed the Russian military is planning to start pretext activities “several weeks before a military invasion,” which could occur between mid-January and mid-February. 

Tensions flare:  The intelligence report comes as tensions between Moscow and Kyiv continue to intensify. More than 100,000 Russian troops are already amassed on Ukraine’s eastern border, leading to fears of a potential invasion in the future. 

U.S. intelligence said in December that Russia was planning a military offensive against Ukraine involving 175,000 troops near the border that could occur as early as this year. 

President Biden has threatened serious economic sanctions if Russia were to execute an invasion of Ukraine. 

Moscow has denied having any such plans. 

Read the full story here 

Senators to meet with Ukraine president

A bipartisan group of senators is traveling to Ukraine this week to meet with President Volodymyr Zelensky and other Ukrainian officials amid escalating tensions between Kyiv and Moscow. 

Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) announced the trip on Monday. They said they are traveling to Ukraine and holding discussions “to reaffirm the U.S.’ commitment to Ukraine, which continues to face an increasingly belligerent Russia.” 

Meetings with Zelensky and other Ukrainian officials were slated for Monday, according to a statement from the senators. 

“Ukraine continues to defend its territorial integrity against an increasingly aggressive Russia, while also striving to enact critical domestic reforms to solidify its democracy – it is more important than ever that the U.S. support Ukraine in its efforts,” Portman said in a statement. 

“I look forward to reaffirming this commitment during our upcoming discussions with senior Ukrainian officials,” he added. 

Read more here 

WHAT WE’RE READING

A MESSAGE FROM HUAWEI

Well, That’s it for today! Check out The Hill’s defense and national security pages for latest coverage. See you tomorrow! {mosads}

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