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Texas synagogue – live: All hostages are out and safe as police confirm suspect is dead

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All hostages at the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue are “out alive and safe,” said Texas governor Greg Abbott and police confirmed that the suspect is deceased.

A gunman had taken hostages at a synagogue in Texas and was demanding the release of a convicted murderer known as ‘Lady Al-Qaeda’ from a US prison.

Police in Colleyville, on the outskirts of Fort Worth, were called to the Congregation Beth Israel at 10.41am on Saturday and were still negotiating with the hostage taker more than 11 hours later at 9pm.

Colleyville Police Chief Michael Miller later told the media that the suspect was dead.

“Around 9 pm, the HRT — hostage rescue team — breached the synagogue, they rescued the three hostages, the suspect is deceased,” he said.

According to reports, the gunman was demanding the release of Aafia Siddiqui, an alleged terrorist serving 86 years in a Texas prison for attempting to kill US soldiers in Afghanistan.

The incident began while a service was being live streamed on Facebook, leading remote congregants to hear the attacker apparently negotiating with police on the phone.

“My heart has become stone!” he says at one point, in a clip recorded before the live stream was removed. “I've got hostages and I'm surrounded and I'm going to die. Okay?

“This is the situation, yeah? These are the stakes. You've got hostages in a synagogue. He's asked for a prisoner to be released, and his gonna die, okay?”

An initial report from ABC News suggested that the suspect claiming to be the brother of Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist currently serving an 86-year prison sentence in Fort Worth, Texas for attempting to murder a US soldier in Afghanistan.

However, Siddiqui’s lawyer told The Independent that the attacker has no connection to her family, while activists campaigning for her release said her brother had nothing to do with the attack and is currently in Houston, nearly 300 miles away.

Key Points

  • Police confirm suspect is dead

  • Suspect in the hostage situation identified

  • All hostages are out alive and safe, says Texas governor

Anti-Defamation League urges law enforcement to investigate suspect’s motives

06:01 , Maroosha Muzaffar

Jonathan A Greenblatt, CEO and National Director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) praised the Texas police and FBI for “their work in ending the tense hostage situation in Colleyville and for the safe return of the hostages to their families.”

Mr Greenblatt said that the “ADL offices across the country will be reaching out to local law enforcement in the coming days to ensure that steps are being taken to ensure the safety and security of the Jewish community.”

The statement added: “This situation is a painful reminder of the fact that synagogues in America continue to be at risk for terrorist attacks. There is no doubt, given what we know so far, that the hostage-taker chose his target carefully. We urge law enforcement and prosecutors to investigate the role antisemitism may have played in motivating the suspect.”

FBI killed the gunman in the Texas synagogue, police chief says

05:50 , Maroosha Muzaffar

Colleyville Police Chief, Michael Miller told the media that 60-70 members of the elite FBI hostage rescue team flew down from Quantico, Virginia for the operation.

The FBI killed the gunman, Mr Miller said. The identity of the gunman has not been made public by the police.

Synagogue still an active crime scene, police chief says

05:39 , Maroosha Muzaffar

Colleyville Police Chief, Michael Miller said that the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue is still an active crime scene and that there were bomb technicians still on site.

Mr Miller also confirmed that the suspect in the hostage situation was dead. Authorities have, however, not revealed his identity to the public at the moment.

Joe Biden praises Texas law enforcement officials

05:32 , Maroosha Muzaffar

President Joe Biden issued a statement on Saturday and praised the Texas law enforcement for their work in the hostage situation.

He said: “We are sending love and strength to the members of Congregation Beth Israel, Colleyville, and the Jewish community.”

He added: “There is more we will learn in the days ahead about the motivations of the hostage taker. But let me be clear to anyone who intends to spread hate — we will stand against anti-Semitism and against the rise of extremism in this country. That is who we are, and tonight, the men and women of law enforcement made us all proud.”

Suspect in the hostage situation identified

04:55 , Maroosha Muzaffar

Matt DeSarno, the special agent in charge at FBI Dallas, told the media that the authorities have identified the suspect who took four people hostage at the Texas synagogue but say they cannot release his identity to the public at this time.

Police confirm suspect is dead

04:47 , Maroosha Muzaffar

Colleyville police have confirmed that the suspect in the Texas synagogue hostage situation is dead.

“Around 9pm, the HRT — hostage rescue team — breached the synagogue, they rescued the three hostages, the suspect is deceased,” said Colleyville Police Chief Michael Miller.

All hostages are out alive and safe, says Texas governor

04:23 , Maroosha Muzaffar

Texas governor, Greg Abbott tweeted that all hostages held in the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue are out alive and safe.

He wrote: “Prayers answered. All hostages are out alive and safe.”

Jewish groups step up security measures

03:38 , Io Dodds

The Beth Israel congregation had been given security training on how to deal with this kind of situation only a few months ago, according to Jerusalem Post reporter Tamar Uriel-Beeri.

On Saturday night, the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas said it had immediately notified all synagogues and other Jewish groups in the Dallas/Fort Worth metro area, telling them to “activate security protocols”.

Police in Los Angeles and New York City also said they had stepped up patrols around synagogues as a precautionary measure.

Meanwhile, leaders from the nearby Islamic Center of Southlake, which has worked often with the Beth Israel synagogue, said its rabbi played an active role in interfaith festivities and charity programmes.

"We know them personally, and we want to make sure that the Jewish community knows that we stand with them as they always stand with us when we feel like we are in trouble by criminals," said the Islamic Center’s former president Shahzad Mahmud.

‘Are you going to get my sister on the phone or not?'

02:59 , Io Dodds

The audio recording posted by Heavycontinues with the hostage taker demanding to speak to his “sister” on the phone, though it’s not clear from this clip who he’s talking about.

“Are you going to get my sister on the phone or not?” he asks. “I tell you one thing – once you get my sister, things will turn [possibly ‘change’]. Come on, get her on, get her on.”

He appears to negotiate regarding the release of one hostage, which did later happening, saying he will let one go and then “release the other three... they will walk out that gate, out the front gate” if certain (inaudible) conditions are met.

Then he says: “I don’t want to hurt ‘em, yeah? Okay? I’m going to release these four guys once they bring [something about his ‘sister’]. Then I’m going to go in the yard and then I’m going to shoot at them and they’re going to kill me, all right?

“I’m going to die at the end of this, all right? Are you listening? I am gonna die, so don’t cry over me.”

‘I’ve got hostages and I’m going to die,’ says attacker in chilling audio recording

02:47 , Io Dodds

The news website Heavy has published an eight-minute recording of the synagogue’s live stream, in which the hostage taker can be heard repeatedly declaring: “I am going to die!”

The man appears to be negotiating with police on the phone, since another voice can be heard tinnily responding to his statements. Many of his words are hard to hear, but can be made out.

“I've got hostages and I'm surrounded and I'm going to die. Okay?” he tells the other person. “This is the situation, yeah? These are the stakes. You've got hostages in a synagogue. He's asked for a prisoner to be released, and he’s gonna die, okay?”

At another point he shouts: “Man up, man up! Don’t cry on the f***ing phone with me, okay?” he shouts at one point. “I left six beautiful kids. I didn’t cry.”

Later he berates the other person saying: “Am I an idiot? Come on, man. You just keep going on about the same things, man. What’s wrong with you, man?”

Apparently describing his motivations, he repeats twice: “I care about her, that’s why I’m doing it.” He refers several times to his “sister”, but it’s hard to make out what he says about her.

The live stream was later taken offline.

Aafia Siddiqui’s lawyer says the attacker has ‘no relation’ to her or her family

02:14 , Io Dodds

Marwa Elbially, Aafia Siddiqui’s lawyer, has said she has no idea who the hostage taker is and that he is not known to the Siddiqui family.

“He has no relation to the family, no relation to the supporters, nothing,” Ms Elbially told The Independent. “We have no idea where this guy came from.... we don’t know who he is and why he decided to do the irrational thing he’s doing now.”

Though she has not spoken to Siddiqui since the attack began, she said her client would “condemn this and not support this in any way” and had “always maintained that no violence should be done in her name”.

Aafia Siddiqui maintains that she is innocent of attempting to murder US soldiers. Ms Elbially said she has offered her help to Texas authorities.

Houston activist says he spoke to Muhammad Siddiqui's lawyer

01:41 , Io Dodds

Here's more detail from Cair Houston's director of operations, William White, who says he spoke to Muhammad Siddiqui's lawyer John Floyd.

"When he heard the horrible incident that was going on he immediately contacted Mr Siddiqui and wanted to make sure that he was safe and that what he was hearing was false," Mr White told me.

"Mr Siddiqui assured Mr Floyd that he was in fact hundreds of miles away from where the incident is taking place."

He added: "Our thoughts and prayers are with the Colleyville community and the national Jewish community."

I hope we’ll hear from Mr Floyd directly, but I’m told that may not happen until tomorrow.

'Whoever he is, he's not Muhammad Siddiqui'

01:27 , Io Dodds

I've just spoken to Faizan Syed, executive director of Cair's Dallas branch, who said his group was told by Muhammad Siddiqui's lawyer John Floyd that he is not the hostage taker.

"This person who's doing this heinous crime, whoever he is, he is not Dr Aafia Siddiqui's brother Muhammad, who is in a completely different part of the state of Texas right now," said Mr Syed.

"Her brother is a respected member of the community, he's an architect, and we've heard this information both from his attorney along with other people who know him who have called him and verified that he's not currently in [the area]."

Mr Syed said Mr Siddiqui's lawyer John White was currently on a plane, so hopefully we will hear more from him when he lands.

Cair is a Muslim civil rights group that has been campaigning for Aafia Siddiqui to be released from prison.

Muhammad Siddiqui’s lawyer says he is not the attacker

01:01 , Io Dodds

A lawyer for Muhammad Siddiqui, Aafia’s brother, has said that he is not the man who took hostages in Colleyville, according to Jerusalem Post managing editor Tamar Uriel-Beeri.

ABC News has also removed any reference to Muhammad Siddiqui from its story, replacing it with an editor’s note: “This story previously said the hostage-taker claimed to be Aafia Siddiqui's brother. Her brother’s lawyer, John Floyd, told ABC News by phone that his client is in Houston and he relayed that information to law enforcement.”

‘Free Aafia Siddiqui’ campaign says hostage taker is not her brother

00:30 , Io Dodds

Activists campaigning for the release of Aafia Siddiqui from prison have condemned the attack in Texas and said the hostage taker is not her brother Muhammad.

In a joint statement, the Free Dr Afia campaign and the Houston branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (Cair) said Cair has represented Muhammad Siddiqui since 2004 and that he is currently nowhere near the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area.

The statement said: "This antisemitic attack against a house of worship is unacceptable. We stand in solidarity with the Jewish community, and we pray that law enforcement authorities are able to swiftly free the hostages and bring them to safety.

"We want the hostage-taker to know that Dr Aafia Siddiqui and her family strongly condemn this act and do not stand by you. Dr Aafia’s family has always stood firm in advocating for the release of their sister from incarceration by legal and non-violent means only....

"This assailant has nothing to do with Dr Aafia, her family, or the global campaign to get justice for Dr Aafia... on behalf of the family and Dr. Aafia, we call on you to immediately release the hostages and turn yourself in."

Texas officials and politicians react

00:03 , Io Dodds

Texas governor Greg Abbott has said he is monitoring the situation, as has the state's attorney general Ken Paxton.

Dallas mayor Eric Johnson said he is sending extra police to protect synagogues in the city, working with the Jewish Federation to keep the community safe.

Meanwhile, the Lone Star State’s senators and politicians posted statements in support of the hostages and the Texas Jewish community.

"Heidi and I are praying for those at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville and for the SWAT team and all other law enforcement on the scene responding," said Republican senator Ted Cruz (Heidi his is wife). "My staff and I are closely monitoring the situation and are in close contact with local and national authorities."

Former Texas congressman and Democratic candidate for governor Beto O'Rourke: "Sending strength to Colleyville as another Texas community is tragically targeted by a gunman. If you’re in the area, please heed the warnings of local officials and avoid the vicinity around the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue."

No hostages have been injured, say police

Saturday 15 January 2022 23:42 , Io Dodds

Here’s the latest statement from Colleyville Police, who have confirmed that hostage negotiators are involved and that the situation was still ongoing at 5.08pm Texas time.

"On Saturday 15 January 2022, at approximately 10.41am, the Colleyville Police Department received a call for service in the 6100 block of Pleasant Run Roads.

"Officers arrived on the scene and observed an emergency situation that warranted evacuation of the surrounding areas, and an external perimeter was established...

"Law enforcement has confirmed that there are others inside but no injuries have been reported. FBI crisis negotiators are in communication with the subject. It remains an active operational and investigative scene."

Aafia Siddiqui, the 'Lady Al-Qaeda' who many still see as a hero

Saturday 15 January 2022 23:21 , Io Dodds

Aafia Siddiqui (GETTY)
Aafia Siddiqui (GETTY)

Aafia Siddiqui, sometimes known as "Lady Al-Qaeda", is a convicted murderer and alleged terrorist who remains the only woman ever to have been placed on the FBI's "seeking information on terrorism" list. Her case was shrouded in mystery, and her sentencing in 2010 caused fury in her native Pakistan.

Now 49, she moved from Pakistan to the US on a student visa in 1990 to join her brother Muhammad, who was studying to be an architect in Houston, Texas.

She studied at the University of Houston and the Massachussetts Institute of Technology, where she joined a group of radical Muslim students and became an activist raising money for guerrillas in Bosnia and Kosovo.

In 2003 she was put on the FBI's list after allegedly being named as a fundraiser for Al Qaeda by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who is now on trial for allegedly masterminding the 9/11 attacks. Having disappeared from the US's radar, she was arrested in Afghanistan five years later, where she allegedly grabbed a US soldier's weapon and tried to shoot her captors.

During her trial she repeatedly made antisemitic remarks, demanding that the jury be genetically tested so that Jews could be excluded and responding to her prison sentence with the cry: "This is a verdict coming from Israel, not America!"

In Pakistan, however, many people saw her as a hero and refused to accept her conviction, with protesters marching in the street. Pakistani media reportedly portrayed her trial as a "farce", while then foreign minister Nawabzada Malik Amad Khan claimed the evidence against her was thin.

'Are you gonna get my sister on the phone?'

Saturday 15 January 2022 22:41 , Io Dodds

Here’s another clip allegedly taken from the synagogue’s most recent live stream before it cut off, in which a man – probably the hostage taker – can be heard shouting.

It’s hard to hear some of his words, but he seems to be saying: “Are you gonna get my sister on the phone or not? I tell you one thing – once you get my sister, things will [inaudible]... come on, get her on.”

Those words may substantiate reports that the hostage taking suspect is the brother of convicted terrorist Aafia Siddiqui, and is demanding she be freed from prison.

Hostage taker wants Pakistani terrorist out of prison, report claims

Saturday 15 January 2022 22:30 , Io Dodds

Police have not yet released any details of the suspect, but according to ABC News his name is Muhammad Siddiqui.

Citing a source at the scene, ABC said he claims to be the brother of Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist serving an 86-year prison sentence in Fort Worth, Texas for attempting to murder a US soldier in Afghanistan.

The source said he was armed and claiming to have bombs in unknown locations, and that he had demanded Aafia Siddiqui be set free.

‘We believe the hostages are fine'

Saturday 15 January 2022 22:05 , Io Dodds

The hostages are still okay, according to a report by Bloomberg. It quotes Harold Gernsbacher, chairman of the Secure Community Network, a Jewish safety organisation, who said: “We believe the condition of the hostages is fine.”

The report added that nearby residents have been evacuated.

Well-wishers flood the synagogue’s Facebook page

Saturday 15 January 2022 21:58 , Io Dodds

The Congregation Beth Israel is a reform Jewish synagogue in Colleyville, Texas, part of the conjoined Dallas and Fort Worth metro area.

Its Facebook page describes it as “a vibrant reform Jewish congregation committed to providing life-long opportunities for spiritual growth and learning based on Jewish values”, founded in 1999.

On Saturday afternoon its page was flooded by well-wishers from across the US and as far as Ghana and Israel, who offered prayers to protect the hostages.

“Shalom from Wisconsin. Thinking of you and hoping the best outcome possible,” said one. “We are just hearing this horrifying news. From Israel we send our prayers and hopes. Stay strong – you are not alone,” said another.

A photo posted by the synagogue for Hanukkah in 2020 (Congregation Beth Israel via Facebook)
A photo posted by the synagogue for Hanukkah in 2020 (Congregation Beth Israel via Facebook)

Facebook live stream captures man shouting aggressively

Saturday 15 January 2022 21:50 , Io Dodds

This is an audio clip allegedly taken from the last moments of the synagogue’s live stream. The male voice shouting may be the hostage-taker, and appears to be in the midst of negotiations, possibly with the police.

“What the f*** is wrong with America?” he says, in a non-US accent. “There is something f***ing wrong with the system that you are still trying to do with me... either there is something wrong with me or there is something wrong in America.”

The live stream has now been removed from the synagogue’s Facebook page.

Hostage situation has now lasted three hours

Saturday 15 January 2022 21:26 , Io Dodds

Good afternoon. A hostage situation is ongoing at the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue in Colleyville, Texas.

Colleyville Police issued its first alert at 11.31am Texas time, saying it was responding with SWAT teams. At 2.20pm it said the situation was not over, meaning it has now been going on for about three hours.

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