COLLEYVILLE, Texas — Authorities in North Texas were involved in a standoff and a hostage situation at a synagogue Saturday afternoon, authorities said.
The Colleyville Police Department said on Twitter that the agency was “conducting SWAT operations” outside Congregation Beth Israel synagogue, the Star-Telegram of Fort Worth reported. People in the immediate area were evacuated, the newspaper reported.
The FBI negotiators are the ones who have contact with the person in the building.” Colleyville Police Sgt Dara Nelson told reporters. There is “no threat to the general public” at this time, Nelson added.
Update 11:25 p.m. EST Jan. 15: A law enforcement official who spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity confirmed that the hostage-taker died, but neither details of the rescue nor the man’s death were immediately released.
The Texas Department of Public Safety told The New York Times that the man had demanded earlier in the day to see his “sister,” identified later as Aafia Siddiqui, the Pakistani neuroscientist suspected of having ties to al-Qaida.
Authorities have not yet determined if the hostage-taker was actually a blood relative of Siddiqui’s but did confirm that she is in federal custody for “terroristic events” in Afghanistan, the Times reported.
“The man claims he and his sister will be going to Jannah (Muslim belief of heaven) after he sees her,” the Texas Department of Public Safety said in a statement issued earlier Saturday.
Update 10:55 p.m. EST Jan. 15: U.S. Rep. Beth Van Duyne, R-Texas, told a Fort Worth Star-Telegram reporter in a text that the hostage-taker is dead.
According to the newspaper, a loud bang followed by what sounded like gunfire was heard at around 9:12 p.m. local time. Shortly after, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted that the remaining hostages had been released and were safe.
Authorities said that a man, who has not been publicly identified, 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.
Update 10:45 p.m. EST Jan. 15: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott confirmed via Twitter just after 10:30 p.m. EST Saturday that the remaining three hostages have been released from Congregation Beth Israel synagogue, after being held captive for nearly 12 hours.
Update 7:50 p.m. EST Jan. 15: Police confirmed to The Associated Press just before 8 p.m. Saturday that one hostage has been released unharmed from Congregation Beth Israel synagogue. Three hostages remain inside.
Officials with Colleyville Police Department confirmed the man was released shortly after 5 p.m. Saturday. The man, who did not require medical attention, is expected to be reunited with his family soon.
Update 6:02 p.m. EST Jan. 15: Authorities said the hostage-taker was heard demanding the release of Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist suspected of having ties to al-Qaeda. She was convicted in 2010 of trying to kill U.S. military officers two years earlier while in custody in Afghanistan, a law enforcement official told The Associated Press. Siddiqui is in federal prison in Fort Worth, Texas, where she is serving an 86-year sentence, the Star-Telegram reported.
According to the Star-Telegram, Siddiqui told her attorney she was attacked in her cell on July 30, the Dallas-Fort Worth sector of the Council on American-Islamic Relations said.
Update 5:43 p.m. EST Jan. 15: According to KTVT-TV, Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson said the Dallas Police Department was increasing security at Dallas synagogues and in the Jewish community. The television station also reported that the Fort Worth Police Department is also increasing patrols around synagogues in the Fort Worth area.
Update 5:32 p.m. EST Jan. 15: According to its website, Congregation Beth Israel began in 1998 as a chavurah, which is a small group of Jewish people who gather for prayer services. The group officially established a synagogue in Colleyville in July 1999 and began services at its current location in 2005, according to The Dallas Morning News.
Update 5:06 p.m. EST Jan. 15: At least four hostages were believed to be inside the synagogue, according to two law enforcement officials who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity. The synagogue’s rabbi, Charlie Cytron-Walker, was believed to be among the hostages, one of the officials said.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted that he is continuing to monitor the situation through the Texas Department of Public Safety. The White House is also monitoring the standoff, according to Press Secretary Jen Psaki.
Colleyville Police and the FBI have not confirmed that information.
Original report: During a live stream of the congregation’s Shabbat morning service, a man could be heard speaking, at times angrily, The Dallas Morning News reported.
The livestream began at about 10 a.m. CST and was still playing nearly four hours later before it was finally shut off. The video did not show what was going on inside the building, the newspaper reported. Coffeyville Police dispatchers confirmed that the livestream had ended, according to WFAA-TV.
Shortly before 2 p.m. CST, the man could be heard saying, “You got to do something. I don’t want to see this guy dead, The Associated Press reported.
Before the livestream ended, muffled audio could be heard of what sounded like negotiations with authorities, the Star-Telegram reported.
According to the livestream, the man has repeatedly mentioned his sister and Islam, sprinkling his speech with profanities, the Star-Telegram reported. At one point, another voice can be heard, communicating with police, according to the newspaper.
Colleyville is located about 17 miles northeast of downtown Fort Worth.
According to the Texas Department of Public Safety, state troopers are helping Colleyville police at the scene, WFAA reported.
It is unclear how many people are in the synagogue, the Star-Telegram reported. Colleyville Police Sgt. Dara Nelson told reporters that no injuries have been reported inside the building.
Commenters on the livestream are offering prayers for Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker. More than 8,000 viewers are watching the livestream.
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