Texas: Synagogue suspect dead as governor says all hostages out and safe

All hostages were out and safe, Texas governor said

Io Dodds
San Francisco
Sunday 16 January 2022 05:30
Gunman takes hostages at Texas synagogue

The gunman who had taken hostages at a synagogue in Texas and was demanding the release of a convicted murderer known as ‘Lady Al-Qaeda’ from a US prison, is dead.

Police in Colleyville, on the outskirts of Fort Worth, were called to the Congregation Beth Israel at 10.41am on Saturday and several hours later all hostages were out alive and safe, Texas governor Greg Abbott tweeted.

According to reports, the gunman was demanding the release of Aafia Siddiqui, an alleged terrorist from Pakistan serving 86 years in a Texas prison for attempting to kill US soldiers in Afghanistan. He took four hostages, including Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker.

SWAT teams were on the scene along with agents from the FBI, while the White House and the governor of Texas said they were monitoring the situation. Police said no one had been injured as of 5pm.

The Colleyville Police Department said: “On Saturday 15 January 2022, at approximately 10.41am, the Colleyville Police Department received a call for service in the 6100 block of Pleasant Run Roads.

“Officers arrived on the scene and observed an emergency situation that warranted evacuation of the surrounding areas, and an external perimeter was established...

“Law enforcement has confirmed that there are others inside but no injuries have been reported. FBI crisis negotiators are in communication with the subject. It remains an active operational and investigative scene.”

Photos of the scene showed law enforcement vehicles, officers in combat gear, and an armoured van outside the front portico of the synagogue.

The incident began while a service was being live streamed on Facebook, leading remote congregants to hear the attacker speaking on the phone, seemingly to to hostage negotiators, for more than eight minutes.

In a recording of the live stream posted by Heavy, a news site, the hostage taker says: “I've got hostages and I'm surrounded and I'm going to die, okay? This is the situation, yeah? These are the stakes. You've got hostages in a synagogue. He's asked for a prisoner to be released, and he’s gonna die, okay?”

At another point, he berates the person on the phone by saying: “Man up, man up! Don’t cry on the f***ing phone with me, okay? I left six beautiful kids. I didn’t cry. My heart has become stone!”

According to the Daily Mail, he also vowed: “If anyone tries to enter this building, I’m telling you everyone will die.’

Marwa Elbially, Aafia Siddiqui’s lawyer, told The Independent that she has no idea who the hostage taker is and that he has no connection to the Siddiqui family.

“He has no relation to the family, no relation to the supporters, nothing,” Ms Elbially said. “We have no idea where this guy came from.... we don’t know who he is and why he decided to do the irrational thing he’s doing now.”

Though she has not spoken to Aafia Siddiqui since the attack began, she said her client would “condemn this and not support this in any way” and had “always maintained that no violence should be done in her name”. She said her client maintains her innocence.

An initial report from ABC News on Saturday said the suspect was claiming to be Siddiqui’s brother Muhammad and said he had bombs in unknown locations, citing a US government official briefed on the matter.

In the live stream, he repeatedly refers to the prisoner as his “sister”, telling the other person: “I care about her, that's why I'm doing it”. Later he asks: “Are you going to get my sister on the phone or not?”

However, activists campaigning for Aafia Siddiqui’s release said that they were in contact with her actual brother, an architect who lives in Houston, and that he had nothing to do with the attack, which they condemned as “wicked” and “antisemitic”.

“We want to make it very well known that the hostage-taker is NOT Dr Aafia Siddiqui’s brother, who is not even in the same region where this horrible incident is taking place,” said a joint statement from the Free Dr Afia campaign and the Houston branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (Cair).

The Jerusalem Post also reported that Muhammad Siddiqui’s lawyer has insisted he is not the man who took hostages Colleyville. The attacker’s reference to his “sister” could be a generic term for someone he believes shares his ideals, equivalent to “comrade”.

This story was updated at 02.19am GMT on Sunday 16 January 2022 to include a statement from Marwa Elbially, and throughout Saturday to include new details as they emerged.

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