By JAKE BLEIBERG, ERIC TUCKER and MICHAEL BALSAMO
COLLEYVILLE, Texas (AP) — A man held hostage for more than 10 hours Saturday 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 attempting to to kill US Army officers in Afghanistan.
One of four hostages held at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville was released during the clash; three others were rescued when authorities entered the building around 9 p.m., authorities said. The hostage taker was killed and FBI Special Agent in Charge Matt DeSarno said a team would investigate the “shooting incident”.
A spokesperson for the FBI and police declined to answer questions about who shot the man.
DeSarno said the hostage taker was specifically focused on an issue that was not directly related to the Jewish community and that there was no immediate indication that the man was part of a larger plan, but DeSarno said the agency’s investigation “will be global in scope.”
Law enforcement officials who were not authorized to discuss the ongoing investigation and who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity said earlier the hostage taker demanded the release of ‘Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist suspected of having ties to al-Qaeda. He also said he wished he could speak to her, according to officials. Siddiqui is in federal prison in Texas.
DeSarno said Saturday night that the man has been identified “but we are not ready to release his identity or confirm his identity at this time.”
A New York rabbi received a call from the rabbi who would 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, Dallas FBI spokeswoman Katie Chaumont said.
Services were streamed live on the synagogue’s Facebook page for some time. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported that an angry man could be heard ranting and talking about religion at times during the live broadcast, which did not show what was going on inside the synagogue.
Shortly before 2 p.m., the man said, “You have to do something. I don’t want to see this guy dead. Moments later, the power was cut off. A Meta company spokesperson later confirmed that Facebook had removed the video.
Several people heard the hostage taker call Siddiqui his “sister” on the livestream, but Faizan Syed, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Dallas Fort-Worth Texas, told The Associated Press that Siddiqui’s brother Siddiqui, Mohammad Siddiqui, was not involved. Syed said CAIR’s support and prayers were with those held in the synagogue.
Texas resident Victoria Francis told the AP she watched about an hour of the live broadcast before it was interrupted. She said she heard the man fuming at America and claiming he had a bomb.
“He was just all over the map. He was quite irritated and the more irritated he was, the more threats he made, like “I’m the guy with the bomb”. If you make a mistake, it’s all up to you. And he was laughing about it,” she said. “He was clearly in extreme distress.”
Francis, who grew up near Colleyville, listened after reading about the hostage situation. She said it appeared the man was talking to the police department on the phone, with the rabbi and another person trying to help with negotiations.
Colleyville, a community of about 26,000 people, is about 23 kilometers northeast of Fort Worth. The synagogue is nestled among large houses in a leafy residential area that includes several churches, a primary and secondary school, and a horse farm.
Congregation Beth Israel is led by Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, who has been there since 2006 as the synagogue’s first full-time rabbi. He worked to bring a sense of spirituality, compassion and learning to the community, according to his biography, and he enjoys welcoming everyone, including LGBT people, into the congregation.
Synagogue founder and former president Anna Salton Eisen said the congregation has about 140 members and Cytron-Walker has worked hard to build interfaith relationships in the community, including exchanging pulpits and participating in a community walk. for peace. She called Saturday’s events “surreal”.
“It’s unlike anything we’ve seen. You know, it’s a small town and it’s a small congregation,” Eisen said as the hostage situation continued. “No matter how it turns out, it’s hard to understand how we’ll all be changed by this, because surely we will be.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki tweeted late Saturday that President Joe Biden had been briefed and was receiving updates from senior officials.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said he was monitoring the situation closely. “We pray for the safety of hostages and rescuers,” he wrote on Twitter.
CAIR, the country’s largest Muslim advocacy group, condemned the attack on Saturday afternoon.
“This latest anti-Semitic attack on a place of worship is an unacceptable evil act,” CAIR Deputy National Director Edward Ahmed Mitchell said in a statement. “We stand in solidarity with the Jewish community and pray that law enforcement will be able to quickly and safely release the hostages. No cause can justify or excuse this crime.
Siddiqui earned advanced degrees from Brandeis University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology before being sentenced in 2010 to 86 years in prison for assaulting and shooting US Army officers after being detained in Afghanistan for two years earlier. The punishment sparked outrage in Pakistan among political leaders and her supporters, who saw her as a victim of the US criminal justice system.
In the years that followed, Pakistani officials publicly expressed interest in any sort of deal or exchange that might result in his release from U.S. custody, and his case continued to attract the attention of his supporters. In 2018, for example, an Ohio man who prosecutors say planned to fly to Texas and attack the prison where Siddiqui is being held in an effort to free her, was sentenced to 22 years in prison. jail.
Tucker and Balsamo reported from Washington, DC; Associated Press writers Jennifer McDermott in Providence, Rhode Island; Michael R. Sisak in New York; Holly Meyer in Nashville, Tennessee; Acacia Coronado in Austin, Texas; and Issac Scharf in Jerusalem contributed to this report.