State Watch

All hostages free, safe after hours-long standoff at Texas synagogue: governor

Hostages were released from a Texas synagogue after an hours-long standoff that began Saturday morning and extended into the night, according to Gov. Greg Abbott (R).
 
“Prayers answered,” Abbott tweeted at 10:33 p.m. “All hostages are out alive and safe.”
 
The hostage-taker was pronounced dead, The Associated Press reported, citing a law enforcement official who spoke to the wire service on the condition of anonymity.
 
CNN reported that there were 4 hostages involved in the situation at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas, citing a law enforcement source familiar. One of the hostages is believed to be a rabbi. 
 
Colleyville is a city located around 15 miles northeast of Fort Worth.

The FBI, the Texas Department of Public Safety and the North Tarrant Regional SWAT team responded to the scene. According to authorities, the FBI negotiated with the alleged hostage-taker for hours.

Colleyville police said in a statement Saturday evening that one male hostage was released shortly after 5 p.m. The person was not injured.

 
Police said in an earlier media release Saturday evening that no injuries had been reported in the hostage incident.
 
A U.S. official told ABC News the alleged hostage-taker claimed to be the brother of imprisoned Pakistani national Aafia Siddiqui. He is also demanding Siddiqui’s release, according to the official, the network reported.
 
According to Al Jazeera, Siddiqui is an American-educated Pakistani who was sentenced to 86 years in prison after she was found guilty of attempting to murder U.S. soldiers and FBI agents.
 
Siddiqui, a neuroscientist and a mother of three, was arrested in Afghanistan in 2008 and is being held at a prison in Fort Worth, according to Al Jazeera. Protests have frequently called for Siddiqui’s release, with one protest organizer saying in the fall of 2021 that she is a victim of the American “war on terror” and was “unjustly” imprisoned.
 
Siddiqui’s attorney, Marwa Elbially, confirmed the release of the hostages to The Hill. Elbially said her client condemns the hostage-taking.
 
“She’s specifically made clear that she wants no violence in her name,” the attorney said.
 
Elbially also said the suspect is not Siddiqui’s brother.
 
“It didn’t even seem remotely plausible,” she said. “I don’t even know why the assumption was made that it was her brother.”
 
According to Elbially, Siddiqui was brought over to the U.S. in 2008 after she was taken into Afghan police custody and later charged with the attempted murder of U.S. soldiers while she was detained. Elbially has disputed her client’s guilt and has been fighting to get her 86-year sentence commuted, but the hostage situation could complicate matters, she said.
 
“This family has been through hell,” Elbially said. “It’s horrible that this is continuing to happen to her with her name being falsely maligned … it’s really awful that she’s being falsely associated with crimes of violence she has absolutely nothing to do with.”
 
Colleyville police received the call for service at 10:41 a.m., the department said. Officers arrived on scene and ordered an evacuation of the immediate area before setting up a perimeter.
 
Along with local police and FBI, the Texas Department of Public Safety and the North Tarrant Regional SWAT team responded to the scene. 
 
“The Texas Department of Public Safety is working closely with the Federal Bureau of Investigation on the hostage situation at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville,” Abbott said in a statement.
 
“The State of Texas is ready to provide additional assistance as requested and we will continue to monitor the situation. I ask Texans to join Cecilia and me as we pray for the safety of the congregants,” Abbott continued.
 
Posting on Twitter following news that the first hostage had been released, Abbott said, “Prayers are being answered.”
 
“3 more to go,” he added. “I talked with the Colleyville Mayor and offered the full assistance of the State of Texas.”

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a post on Twitter early Saturday evening that President Biden had been briefed on the situation and would continue to receive updates.

“Senior members of the national security team are also in touch with federal law enforcement leadership,” Psaki added. 

Texas Sens. John Cornyn (R) and Ted Cruz (R) also said that they were monitoring the situation as it developed.

“Just briefed on the situation at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville by the DHS Secretary, and I will continue to monitor,” Cornyn said in a Twitter post. “Please pray for the hostages inside and law enforcement on the scene.”

“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,” Cruz tweeted.

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

Rep. Beth Van Duyne (R-Texas), whose district includes Colleyville, said in a Twitter post that she was “praying for safety and quick resolution for all involved in #Colleyville today.”

“I’m monitoring the situation, speaking with officials, and will update when we know more,” she tweeted.

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) tweeted that he was monitoring the situation.

“I’m praying for a peaceful resolution, for those being held, for the first responders, for Congregation Beth Israel, and for the Jewish community in Colleyville,” he wrote.

And Naftali Bennett, the prime minister of Israel, tweeted that he was praying “for the safety of the hostages and the rescuers” as he monitored the situation.

Police first notified the pubic that they were conducting SWAT operations at the synagogue Saturday afternoon. 

“We are currently conducting SWAT operations around the 6100 block of Pleasant Run Rd. All residents in the immediate area are being evacuated. Please avoid the area,” Colleyville Police tweeted.

Colleyville Police Sgt. Dara Nelson said that the FBI’s “negotiators are the ones who have contact with the person in the building,” CNN reported.

Nelson noted that at this time there is “no threat to the general public.”

In a video that has since been taken down of a livestreamed Shabbat service from the synagogue, a man could be heard sounding angry and cursing, according to NBC News. The network noted it was not clear what was happening inside the building as no images were displayed of the events. 

The FBI referred The Hill to Colleyville Police for updates.

The Hill has reached out to Colleyville Police and the synagogue for more information.

— Updated at 11:35 p.m.

State Watch