Hostage situation at synagogue in Texas ends after nearly 12 hours

Colleyville,Texas:Hostages held for hours by a man inside a Texas synagogue have been rescued,according to Governor Greg Abbott,bringing an end to a stand-off that had lasted nearly 12 hours.

“Prayers answered. All hostages are out alive and safe,” Abbott tweeted.

The announcement came not long after a loud bang and what sounded like gunfire was heard coming from the synagogue,where authorities said a man had held people captive as he demanded the release of a Pakistani neuroscientist who was convicted of trying to kill US Army officers in Afghanistan.

The hostage-taker was later declared dead,according to a law enforcement official who spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity. Details of the rescue or the man’s death were not immediately released.

Authorities said a man took at least four hostages during services at the Colleyville synagogue where the suspect could be heard ranting in a Facebook livestream before the feed cut out.

The synagogue’s rabbi was among the hostages,one of the officials said.

The Colleyville Police Department said one hostage was released uninjured around noon on Sunday AEDT. The man was expected to be reunited with his family and did not require medical attention.

Emergency teams stage near Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville,Texas,on Sunday AEDT.

Emergency teams stage near Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville,Texas,on Sunday AEDT.Dallas Morning News/AP

Earlier the department tweeted that it was conducting SWAT operations at the address of Congregation Beth Israel,north-east of Fort Worth.

The FBI has also deployed negotiators and additional police patrols have been sent to nearby Dallas synagogues and other sites “as a precaution”,reported Amichai Stein,correspondent of the Israeli public broadcasting corporation.

Police secure the area around Congregation Beth Israel synagogue in Colleyville,Texas.

Police secure the area around Congregation Beth Israel synagogue in Colleyville,Texas.Star-Telegram/AP

Authorities were trying to discern a precise motive for the attack. The hostage-taker was heard demanding the release of the neuroscientist who was suspected of having ties to al-Qaeda. She was convicted of trying to kill US military officers while in custody in Afghanistan,one of the law enforcement officials said. Siddiqui is in federal prison in Texas. Some reports said the woman was the gunman’s sister.

The officials said investigators had not positively identified the man and cautioned that the information was based on a preliminary investigation as the situation was still developing. One of the officials said the man claimed to be armed but authorities had not confirmed whether he was.

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 New York rabbi then called 911 .

FBI Dallas spokeswoman Katie Chaumont said an FBI SWAT team attended and that crisis negotiators had been communicating with someone inside the synagogue. But she could not say whether the person was armed and she declined to describe what the person had said to authorities,citing operational sensitivity.

Police were first called to the synagogue around 11am and people were evacuated from the surrounding neighbourhood soon after that,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.

Law enforcement shut down access to the roads surrounding the synagogue Saturday afternoon.

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 2pm,the man said,“You got to do something. I don’t want to see this guy dead.” Moments later,the feed cut out.

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

Texas resident Victoria Francis said she watched about an hour of the livestream before it cut out. She said she heard the man rant against America and claim he had a bomb.

Law enforcement officials gather at Colleyville Elementary School near the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue,in Texas,on Sunday AEDT.

Law enforcement officials gather at Colleyville Elementary School near the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue,in Texas,on Sunday AEDT.AP

“He was just all over the map. He was pretty irritated and the more irritated he got,he’d make more threats,like ‘I’m the guy with the bomb. If you make a mistake,this is all on you.’ And he’d laugh at that,” she said. “He was clearly in extremely distress.”

Francis,who lives in Rhome,Texas and grew up near Colleyville,tuned in after she read on Facebook that there was a hostage situation at the synagogue. She said it sounded like the man was talking to the police department on the phone,with the rabbi and another person trying to help with the negotiations.

When the livestream cut out,the man was getting pretty irate,Francis said.

“It’s a scary situation. I’m hopeful it ends the best way it can,obviously with no one hurt,” she said. “Especially in this area,you never think something like this is going to hit home until it does.”

Colleyville,a community of about 26,000 people,is about 23 kilometres north-east of Fort Worth.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki tweeted 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 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.”


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