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Man Takes Hostages At Texas Synagogue, Demands Release Of Pakistani Terrorist

The hostage-taker was heard demanding the release of Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist suspected of having ties to al-Qaeda, who was convicted of trying to kill US military officers while in custody in Afghanistan.

SWAT team members deploy near Congregation Beth Israel Synagogue during a hostage situation in Colleyville, Texas, January 15, 2022. (Photo: PTI/AFP)

Colleyville, United States: Authorities said a man took hostages Saturday during services at a Texas synagogue where the suspect could be heard ranting in a Livestream and demanding the release of a Pakistani neuroscientist who was convicted of trying to kill US Army officers in Afghanistan.

At least four hostages were initially believed to be inside the synagogue, according to two law enforcement officials who were not authorised 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. A law enforcement official said the man claimed to be armed but authorities have not confirmed whether he is.

The Colleyville Police Department said one hostage was released uninjured shortly after 5 pm on 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, a Pakistani neuroscientist suspected of having ties to al-Qaeda, who was convicted of trying to kill US military officers while in custody in Afghanistan, 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 rabbi in New York City called 911 to report the call.

Police were first called to the synagogue around 11 am 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 pm, 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.

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

US President Joe Biden has been briefed “on the developing hostage situation,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Twitter.

Colleyville, a community of about 26,000 people, is about 15 miles (23 kilometers) northeast of Fort Worth.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said he was monitoring the situation closely. “We pray for the safety of the hostages and rescuers,” he wrote on Twitter.

Israel’s consul general in Houston is on her way to the scene of the incident, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said in a statement, adding that Israeli officials “are in close contact with American law enforcement agencies.”

ALSO READ: Who Is Pak Scientist ‘Lady Al-Qaida’ Aafia Siddiqui Who Texas Gunman Wanted Freed?