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Texas police respond to apparent synagogue hostage situation

Reports say the brother of a convicted terrorist has taken a rabbi and three others hostage at the Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville



Colleyville police secure the area around Congregation Beth Israel synagogue in Colleyville, Texas. — AP
Colleyville police secure the area around Congregation Beth Israel synagogue in Colleyville, Texas. — AP

By AFP

Published: Sun 16 Jan 2022, 1:40 AM

A SWAT police operation was underway on Saturday at a Texas synagogue where a man claiming to be the brother of a convicted terrorist has reportedly taken several people hostage, police and media said.

ABC News, citing an unspecified source, said the suspect had taken a rabbi and three others hostage at the Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, some 40 kilometres west of Dallas.

The network reported that the hostage-taker was armed, and had claimed to have bombs in unknown locations.

Quoting a US official briefed on the matter, ABC reported that the man was claiming to be the brother of Aafia Siddiqui — who has been dubbed “Lady Qaeda” by US tabloids — and was demanding to have his sister freed from prison.

Siddiqui, a former Pakistani scientist, was in 2010 sentenced by a New York court to 86 years in prison for attempted murder of US officers in Afghanistan. The high-profile case sparked outrage in Pakistan.

A live stream of the congregation’s Shabbat morning service on Facebook appeared to capture audio of a man talking loudly — although it did not show the scene inside the building.

In it he could be heard saying, “You get my sister on the phone,” and “I am gonna die.”

He was also heard saying: “There’s something wrong with America.”

The stream began at 10am and stopped broadcasting just before 2pm.

The Colleyville police department said in a tweet at 11.30am (1630 GMT) that it was “conducting SWAT operations” at the address of the Congregation Beth Israel.

In an update two hours later the department said the situation “remains ongoing”.

“We ask that you continue to avoid the area. We will continue to provide updates via social media,” it said.

At 2.20pm it said the situation was unchanged.

FBI agents were also on the scene, according to video footage carried by CNN.

The Dallas Morning News reported that police were negotiating with a hostage taker.

The paper said it was unclear how many people were inside the building, citing Colleyville police sergeant Dara Nelson.

She added that no injuries had been reported inside the synagogue.

Texas congressman Colin Allred sent a message of support, saying he was “praying for the congregants in Colleyville”.

“No one should have to fear something like this may happen in their place of worship,” he tweeted.

The police department and city government did not immediately respond to requests for information from AFP.


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