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Hostages safe after standoff inside Texas synagogue

Hostages safe after standoff

UPDATE 8:15 p.m.

Hostages who had been held for hours inside a Texas synagogue were rescued Saturday night, according to Gov. Greg Abbott, nearly 12 hours after the standoff began.

“Prayers answered. All hostages are out alive and safe,” Abbott tweeted.

Abbott’s tweet came not long after a loud bang and what sounded like gunfire was heard coming from the synagogue, where authorities said a man had held people captive as he demanded the release of a Pakistani neuroscientist who was convicted of trying to kill U.S. Army officers in Afghanistan. Details of the rescue were not immediately released and it was unclear whether the hostage-taker was dead or alive.


UPDATE 7:20 p.m.

A man took hostages Saturday during services at a Texas synagogue where he could be heard ranting in a livestream and demanding the release of a Pakistani neuroscientist who was convicted of trying to kill U.S. Army officers in Afghanistan.

At least four hostages were initially believed to be inside the synagogue, according to three law enforcement officials who were not authorized to discuss the ongoing investigation and who spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity. The synagogue's rabbi was believed to be among the hostages, one of the officials said. One of the officials said the man claimed to be armed but authorities had not confirmed whether he is.

The Colleyville Police Department said one hostage was released uninjured shortly after 5 p.m. Saturday. The man was expected to be reunited with his family and did not require medical attention.

Authorities are still trying to discern a precise motive for the attack. The hostage-taker was heard demanding the release of Aafia Siddiqui, the Pakistani neuroscientist suspected of having ties to al-Qaida, the officials said. He also said he wanted to be able to speak with her, according to the officials. Siddiqui is in federal prison in Texas.

The officials said investigators have not positively identified the man and cautioned that the information was based on a preliminary investigation as the situation was still rapidly developing.

A rabbi in New York City received a call from the rabbi believed to be held hostage in the synagogue to demand Siddiqui’s release, a law enforcement official said. The New York rabbi then called 911 .

Police were first called to the synagogue around 11 a.m. and people were evacuated from the surrounding neighborhood soon after that, FBI Dallas spokesperson Katie Chaumont said. There have been no reported injuries, Chaumont said.

“It’s an evolving situation, and we have a lot of law enforcement personnel on scene,” Chaumont said.

The services were being livestreamed on the synagogue's Facebook page for a time. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported that an angry man could be heard ranting and talking about religion at times during the livestream, which didn't show what was happening inside the synagogue.

Shortly before 2 p.m., the man said, “You got to do something. I don’t want to see this guy dead.” Moments later, the feed cut out. A Meta company spokesperson later confirmed that Facebook removed the video.

Multiple people heard the hostage-taker refer to Siddiqui as his “sister” on the livestream, but Faizan Syed, the executive director of Council on American-Islamic Relations in Dallas Fort-Worth Texas, told The Associated Press that Siddiqui’s brother, Mohammad Siddiqui, was not involved. Syed said CAIR’s support and prayers were with the people being held in the synagogue.

Texas resident Victoria Francis told the AP that she watched about an hour of the livestream before it cut out. She said she heard the man rant against America and claim he had a bomb.

“He was just all over the map. He was pretty irritated and the more irritated he got, he’d make more threats, like ‘I’m the guy with the bomb. If you make a mistake, this is all on you.’ And he’d laugh at that,” she said. “He was clearly in extreme distress.”


ORIGINAL 2 p.m.

Authorities say a man apparently took hostages Saturday during services at a synagogue near Fort Worth, Texas.

The Colleyville Police Department tweeted Saturday afternoon that it was conducting SWAT operations at the address of Congregation Beth Israel.

At least four hostages were believed to be inside the synagogue, according to two law enforcement officials who were not authorized to discuss the ongoing investigation and who spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity. The synagogue's rabbi was believed to be among the hostages, one of the officials said.

FBI Dallas spokeswoman Katie Chaumont said an FBI SWAT team was also at the scene and that crisis negotiators had been communicating with someone inside the synagogue. But she could not say whether the person was armed and she declined to describe what the person had said to authorities, citing operational sensitivity.

Police were first called to the synagogue around 11 a.m. and people were evacuated from the surrounding neighborhood soon after that, Chaumont said.

There have been no reported injuries, Chaumont said.

“It’s an evolving situation, and we have a lot of law enforcement personnel on scene,” Chaumont said.

Law enforcement shut down access to the roads surrounding the synagogue Saturday afternoon.

The services were being livestreamed on the synagogue's Facebook page for a time. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported that an angry man could be heard ranting and talking about religion at times during the livestream, which didn't show what was happening inside the synagogue.

Shortly before 2 p.m., the man said, “You got to do something. I don’t want to see this guy dead.” Moments later, the feed cut out.

The man, who used profanities, repeatedly mentioned his sister, Islam and that he thought he was going to die, the Star-Telegram reported.

Colleyville, a community of about 26,000 people, is about 23 kilometres northeast of Fort Worth.



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