A rabbi and three worshippers have been rescued unharmed following a tense ten hour long standoff with a hostage-taker in a Texas synagogue.
The suspect, who claimed to have weapons and explosives on him, has been reported dead following the intervention of a rescue team. It is not yet known who he was or how he died.
“Prayers answered. All hostages are out alive and safe,” Texas Governor Greg Abbott confirmed in a tweet late on Saturday evening.
All hostages are out alive and safe.
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) January 16, 2022
The standoff began early on Saturday morning during the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue’s weekly service in the city of Colleyville. On a Facebook live stream of the Shabbat service, a man can be heard saying, “You get my sister on the phone", "I am gonna die" and "There's something wrong with America."
Congregant Barry Klompus told Reuters that as soon as he heard what was happening he switched on the livestream and watched in horror:
"It was horrible listening and watching, and it's that much more horrible not knowing," Mr Klompus recalled.
Over 200 members of US law enforcement were dispatched and people were evacuated from the local area.
The suspect demanded the release of Aafia Siddiqui, a federal prisoner serving an 86 year sentence in Texas. Nicknamed ‘Lady Al Qaeda’, Siddiqui was convicted in 2010 of attempting to murder US soldiers in Afghanistan.
After six hours, one hostage was released and the final three were later led to safety when a hostage-rescue team entered the synagogue.
Update at 9:55pm: The SWAT situation in Colleyville is resolved and all hostages are safe. We continue to work in partnership with the FBI to finalize all details. We will be addressing the media staging area at Good Shepherd Catholic Church at 10:15pm with an update.
— Colleyville Police (@ColleyvillePD) January 16, 2022
President Biden was briefed about the situation as it unfolded and afterwards released a statement to the press:
“There is more we will learn in the days ahead about the motivations of the hostage taker,” Mr Biden said.
“But let me be clear to anyone who intends to spread hate — we will stand against antisemitism and against the rise of extremism in this country.”
Jewish communities across the United States have been regularly targeted in recent years; in 2019 a woman was shot dead in a shul near San Diego and in 2018 a gunman massacred 11 worshippers in a Pittsburgh synagogue.
Main image: Colleyville synagogue. Picture by: Colleyville synagogue Facebook.