Police Surround Synagogue Where Hostages Are Held

Man was heard ranting on livestream of Texas service
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 15, 2022 5:50 PM CST
Police Surround Synagogue Where Hostages Are Held
Police secure the area around Congregation Beth Israel synagogue on Saturday in Colleyville, Texas.   (Jessika Harkay/Star-Telegram via AP)

(Newser) – 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. The Colleyville Police Department tweeted Saturday afternoon that it was conducting SWAT operations at Congregation Beth Israel, northeast of Fort Worth. At least four hostages were believed to be inside the synagogue, two law enforcement officials said. The synagogue's rabbi was believed to be among the hostages, the AP reports.

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, officials said. Siddiqui is in federal prison in Texas. The officials said investigators have not positively identified the man and cautioned that the situation was still rapidly developing late Saturday afternoon.

FBI Dallas spokeswoman Katie Chaumont said that an FBI SWAT team was at the scene 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. Police were first called to the synagogue around 11am, and people were evacuated from the surrounding neighborhood soon after that, Chaumont said. There have been no reported injuries, Chaumont said. The services were being livestreamed on the synagogue's Facebook page for a time, and 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. (Read more hostages stories.)

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