COLLEYVILLE, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) - A hostage situation at a synagogue in Colleyville on Saturday, January 15 ended after nearly 11 hours when law enforcement safely rescued all four hostages.
Local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies worked together to save the hostages.
Authorities said a man apparently took hostages Saturday during services at a Texas synagogue where the suspect could be heard ranting angrily in a livestream before the feed cut out.
Four hostages were held inside the synagogue, including the Congregation's rabbi, Charlie Cytron-Walker
One of the hostages was released unharmed that evening, Colleyville Police said. He did not require medical attention and will be reunited with his family as soon as possible.
A Facebook live feed from Congregation Beth Israel was on when the incident started to unfold. Shabbat services were being streamed at the time according to the Congregation's website.
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 U.S. military officers while in custody in Afghanistan, one of the law enforcement officials said. He also said he wanted to be able to speak with her, according to the officials. Siddiqui is being held at FMC Carswell in Fort Worth, Texas.
WCBS-TV reported that Rabbi Cytron-Walker apparently called Angela Buchdahl, a New York City rabbi, twice while he was held hostage. The two rabbis apparently discussed Siddiqui's case, the NYPD said.
The law enforcement officials said investigators have not positively identified the man and cautioned that the information was based on a preliminary investigation as the situation was still rapidly developing. The suspected hostage-taker reportedly told law enforcement agents that he had supposedly placed several bombs in nearby undisclosed areas.
Multiple people heard the hostage-taker refer to Siddiqui as his "sister" on the livestream, but Faizan Syed, the executive director of Council on American-Islamic Relations in DFW, told The Associated Press that Siddiqui's brother, Mohammad Siddiqui, was not involved. Syed said CAIR's support and prayers were with the people being held in the synagogue.
FBI Dallas spokeswoman Katie Chaumont said 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.
While the livestream was still active, the man, who used profanities, repeatedly mentioned his sister, Islam and that he thought he was going to die. The suspect also repeatedly said he was not a criminal.
Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist with advanced degrees from Brandeis University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was sentenced in 2010 to 86 years in prison on charges that she assaulted and shot at U.S. Army officers after being detained in Afghanistan two years earlier. The punishment sparked outrage in Pakistan among political leaders and her supporters, who viewed her as victimized by the American criminal justice system.
In the years since, Pakistan officials have expressed interest publicly in any sort of deal or swap that could result in her release from U.S. custody, and her case has continued to draw attention from supporters. In 2018, for instance, an Ohio man who prosecutors say planned to fly to Texas and attack the prison where Siddiqui is being held in an attempt to free her was sentenced to 22 years in prison.
At about 9:15 p.m., CBS 11's JD Miles reported that "a loud explosion was just heard coming from the congregation Beth Israel synagogue where a standoff has been going on for 10 hours with a hostage taker followed by what appeared to be gunshots."
At 9:36 p.m., Governor Greg Abbott tweeted that "all hostages are out alive and safe." The suspect was shot during a rescue mission executed by SWAT and has died. It is unclear who fired the bullet.
Police said they identified the suspect, but could not release his name yet.
Sources confirmed to CBS 11's Doug Dunbar that the elite FBI hostage rescue team, who flew into DFW earlier that evening, executed the explosion and entry.
WATCH THE FULL POLICE, FBI NEWS CONFERENCE HERE
President Joe Biden Responds To Hostages' Rescue
In a statement released late in the evening of Saturday, January 15, President Biden released a statement praising the law enforcement efforts:
Thanks to the courageous work of state, local and federal law enforcement, four Americans who were held hostage at a Texas synagogue will soon be home with their families. I am grateful to the tireless work of law enforcement at all levels who acted cooperatively and fearlessly to rescue the hostages. We are sending love and strength to the members of Congregation Beth Israel, Colleyville, and the Jewish community.
There is more we will learn in the days ahead about the motivations of the hostage taker. But let me be clear to anyone who intends to spread hate—we will stand against anti-Semitism and against the rise of extremism in this country. That is who we are, and tonight, the men and women of law enforcement made us all proud.
Government And International Officials Respond
Israel Prime Minister Naftali Bennett tweeted that he was "closely monitoring the hostage situation" and prayed for the safety of the hostages and rescuers.
Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that President Biden was aware of the situation and was receiving updates.
Dr. Nachman Shai, Israel's Minister of Diaspora Affairs, prayed for an "immediate and safe end."
Senator Ted Cruz said he and his wife Heidi are praying for the hostages and rescuers, and that he and his staff are closely monitoring the situation and are in contact with local and national authorities.
Congresswoman Beth Van Duyne, whose district includes Colleyville, asked for others to join her "in praying for safety and quick resolution for all involved in Colleyville today."
Texas Governor Greg Abbott said he was monitoring the situation and that Texas DPS was working closely with local and federal teams and, in a statement, asked Texans to pray for the safety of the congregants.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said he is closely monitoring the operation and was ready to assist the Colleyville Police Department.
United States Attorney for the Northern District of Texas Chad E. Meacham released the following statement after the resolution of the hostage situation at Colleyville's Congregation Beth Israel this evening:
"Today is a testament to the fortitude of north Texas law enforcement. When the pivotal moment came, officers and agents stepped bravely into the fray. Our prayers are with the four freed hostages and the entire Jewish community tonight."
In a statement, CAIR National Deputy Director Edward Ahmed Mitchell said:
"We strongly condemn the hostage-taking at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas. 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. No cause can justify or excuse this crime. We are in contact with local community leaders to learn more and provide any assistance that we can."
Muslim Advocates condemned the attack and stood in solidarity with the Rabbi and synagogue.
Texas Congressman Craig Goldman asked others to join him in prayer for the Rabbi and his synagogue.
Former Texas Congressman Beto O'Rourke sent strength to Colleyville.
Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson said the Dallas Police Department would deploy additional patrols to Dallas synagogues as a precaution.
The Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum said it was "horrified by the situation" and that it hoped for a "safe resolution."
Tarrant County Judge B. Glen Whitley said he and his wife were praying for the hostages and hoped for a peaceful resolution.
Fort Worth Mayor Mattie Parker and Fort Worth Chief of Police Neil Noakes offered their support and said Fort Worth Police would be taking steps to keep the city's Jewish community safe.
Los Angeles Police also announced they would be increasing patrols as a precautionary measure.
(© Copyright 2022 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
for more features.