Published On: Sun, Jan 16th, 2022

SWAT team responds to Colleyville, Texas, synagogue

Authorities in Texas were negotiating with a man holding hostages, including a rabbi, at a synagogue in Dallas-Fort Worth on Saturday afternoon.

The man is demanding the release of a federal prisoner who was convicted in 2010 of attempted murder in a terrorism-related case, officials said.

Police in Colleyville responded at 10:41 a.m. in the 6100 block of Pleasant Run Rd., where the Congregation Beth Israel is located, police said in a statement. A SWAT team and other law enforcement agencies also responded, they said.

It’s unclear how many people were inside the building at the time of the incident or whether anyone was armed. No injuries have been reported, police said.

Nearly eight hours after the initial call, FBI crisis negotiators continued to communicate with the person in the synagogue.

One of the hostages was released shortly after 5 p.m. and was uninjured, police said.

Police have not said how many people are being held in the synagogue, however, in a tweet Gov. Greg Abbott said after the release of one person that there were “3 more to go.”

Three senior law enforcement officials briefed on the situation said the man is holding a rabbi and others hostage. The man told authorities he wants the release of Aafia Siddiqui from federal prison.

Siddiqui, 49, was convicted by a federal jury in 2010 of attempting to kill U.S. officers in Afghanistan and is currently being held at FMC Carswell, a federal prison in Fort Worth, Texas.

Aafia Siddiqui was found guilty in 2010 of two counts of attempted murder for trying to kill Americans while she was detained in Afghanistan. FBI via AP file

Three senior law enforcement officials briefed on the matter say the hostage taker had the rabbi in Colleyville call a rabbi in New York City to say he was being held hostage and that the hostage taker wanted his “sister,” Addia Siddiqui, freed.

New York Police Department counter-terrorism teams were seen Saturday at the synagogue connected to the New York rabbi who received the call.

On a Facebook livestream of the congregation’s Shabbat morning service, a man could be heard speaking, at times cursing and sounding angry. He also mentioned his sister.

The video, which has been taken down, did not show what was going on inside the building.

Law enforcement officials in Texas are trying to determine whether the person holding the people hostage is related to Siddiqui.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations, which has advocated for Siddiqui’s release and claimed she is innocent, said Siddiqui’s brother is not the hostage taker in the synagogue.

John Floyd, board chair of CAIR Houston and longtime legal counsel for Siddiqui’s brother, said in a statement that his client is not responsible for the situation, is not near Dallas-Fort Worth and that hostage taker has nothing to do with Siddiqui.

“We want the assailant to know that his actions are wicked and directly undermine those of us who are seeking justice for Dr. Aafia,” Floyd said in a statement. “On behalf of the family and Dr. Aafia, we call on you to immediately release the hostages and turn yourself in.”

A White House official told NBC News that they are “closely monitoring” the situation.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki tweeted that President Joe Biden has been briefed. “Senior members of the national security team are also in touch with federal law enforcement leadership,” she wrote.

Attorney General Merrick Garland was also “closely following the situation,” spokesman Anthony Coley said.

Abbott tweeted that the situation was “tense,” but state law enforcement was “working with local and federal teams to achieve the best and safest outcome.”

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, U.S. Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides, and Prime Minister of Israel Naftali Bennett have also said they are monitoring the events.

“Praying for an immediate and safe end,” Nodes tweeted.

FBI crisis negotiators are in contact with the suspect, Colleyville police said in a statement.

The Texas Department of Public Safety and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are also assisting the FBI and Colleyville police.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, tweeted that “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.”

“My staff and I are closely monitoring the situation and are in close contact with local and national authorities,” Cruz added.

Following initial reports about the SWAT response that the synagogue, the American Jewish Committee said: “Our thoughts and prayers are with the local Jewish community at this time.”

“We will continue to monitor the situation as it develops,” the organization tweeted.

CAIR criticized the violent situation Saturday and offered its assistance.

“We strongly condemn the hostage-taking at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas,” CAIR’s national deputy director, Edward Ahmed Mitchell, said in the statement. “This latest antisemitic attack at a house of worship is an unacceptable act of evil. We stand in solidarity with the Jewish community, and we pray that law enforcement authorities are able to swiftly and safely free the hostages.”

Israel’s consular office in Houston tweeted that Livia Link-Raviv, its consul general of Israel to the Southwest, was headed to the scene in Colleyville.

“We are continuing to pray for the congregants, first responders, and the entire Jewish community,” it said.

Congregation Beth Israel, affiliated with Judaism’s Reform movement, began in 1998 as a chavurah or a small group of Jewish people who gather for prayer services, according to its website. The group officially established a synagogue in Colleyville in July 1999, and began services at its current location in 2005.

Josh Lederman, Jonathan Dienst and The Associated Press contributed.

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