© Reuters. Law enforcement vehicles were seen in the area where a man allegedly took hostages in a synagogue during a live broadcast, in Colleyville, Texas, USA, on January 15, 2022. REUTERS / Shelby Tauber
Authors Shelby Tauber and Daphne Psaledakis
COLLEYVILLE, Texas (Reuters) – Police negotiated with a man believed to have taken people hostage at a synagogue in Colleyville, Texas, during a religious service Saturday that was broadcast online.
The Colleyville Police Department said FBI negotiators remained in contact with the kidnapper late Saturday afternoon after the male hostage was released unharmed more than six hours after the crisis began.
The other hostages were still being held.
Police said they evacuated residents from the area around the Beth Israel Congregation as they deployed SWAT teams after responding to an emergency call at 10:41 p.m. No injuries were reported and it remained unclear which weapon, if any, the man had.
Initially, there were four hostages, including a rabbi, according to a person informed of the situation who was not authorized to speak in public.
One could be heard having a one-sided conversation in what looked like a phone call during the Facebook (NASDAQ 🙂 livestream of the Sabbath service of the Reformed Jewish Synagogue in Colleyville, which is about 16 miles (26 km) northeast of Fort Worth. The live broadcast was interrupted around 3:00 PM EST (2000 GMT).
Before the live broadcast was over, the man could be heard chattering and talking about faith and his sister, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported. The man could be heard several times saying that he did not want anyone to be injured and that he believed that he would die, the newspaper writes.
President Joe Biden has been briefed on the “hostage situation that is evolving,” his press secretary said. Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said https://twitter.com/naftalibennett/status/1482463339385171970?s=20 on Twitter (NYSE 🙂 that he was monitoring the situation and praying for the safety of the hostages.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said State Department of Public Security officials are also on the scene working on “the best and safest outcome.”
Barry Klompus, a member of the assembly since it opened in 1999, said he was involved in the live broadcast.
“It was horrible to listen and watch, and it’s much scarier not to know,” Clompus said in a telephone interview.
Although he could not clearly understand what the man wanted, Clompus believed that the man wanted to talk to his sister.
A U.S. official reported on the matter told ABC News that the kidnapper claims to be the brother of Pakistani neuroscientist Aafie Siddiqui, who is serving an 86-year U.S. prison sentence based on a 2010 conviction for shooting FBI soldiers and agents, and demands that is to be liberated.
But authorities have not yet confirmed his identity, the official told ABC News.
Siddiqui is in the federal prison in the Fort Worth area.
The president of the Union for Reform Judaism, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, said on Twitter that the union was “very grateful to the police who are working to free the hostages”. The Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish advocacy group, said it was aware of the conflict, and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a U.S. Muslim advocacy group, condemned the man’s actions.
“This latest anti-Semitic attack on American Jews worshiping in the synagogue is an act of pure evil,” the CAIR said in a statement.
Clompus said that he did not know of any significant threats to the congregation.
“We don’t have a security officer on staff, but we have, I would say, a very good relationship with the local police,” he said.