COLLEYVILLE, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – Texas DPS agents, FBI agents, ATF agents, and local police are responding to an ongoing hostage situation at a synagogue in Colleyville.
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.
At least four hostages were believed to be inside the synagogue, according to two law enforcement officials who were not authorized to discuss the ongoing investigation and who spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity. The synagogue’s rabbi was believed to be among the hostages, one of the officials said.
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.
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.
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.
Rabbi Being Held Hostage
The congregation began in 1998 as Chavurah community members started to relocate to Northeast Tarrant County from other areas of the county. CBI was officially established in 1999 with 25 members. By 2005, they had grown enough to hire a full-time rabbi.
Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, who is believed to be in the building, was hired for the position in 2006. Charlie is originally from Lansing, Michigan where he graduated from University of Michigan. After graduating he worked at Focus: HOPE, a civil and human rights organization in Detroit, Michigan and then became the assistant director of the Amherst Survival Center, which housed a food pantry, free store and soup kitchen in North Amherst, Massachusetts.
He has two daughters, and is married to his wife. He is a past president of the South West Association of Reform Rabbis and serves on the steering committee of Peace Together.
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.
I am closely monitoring the hostage situation taking place in Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas.
We pray for the safety of the hostages and rescuers.
— Naftali Bennett בנט (@naftalibennett) January 15, 2022
Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that President Biden was aware of the situation and was receiving updates.
.@POTUS has been briefed about the developing hostage situation in the Dallas area. He will continue to receive updates from his senior team as the situation develops. Senior members of the national security team are also in touch with federal law enforcement leadership.
— Jen Psaki (@PressSec) January 15, 2022
Dr. Nachman Shai, Israel’s Minister of Diaspora Affairs, prayed for an “immediate and safe end.”
Monitoring closely from Israel the hostage situation unfolding at Beth Israel Congregation where the Jewish community gathered for Shabbat services in Colleyville, Texas. Praying for an immediate and safe end.
— נחמן שי- Nachman Shai (@DrNachmanShai) January 15, 2022
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.
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.
My staff and I are closely monitoring the situation and are in close contact with local and national authorities.
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) January 15, 2022
Texas Governor Greg Abbott said he was monitoring the situation and that Texas DPS was working closely with local and federal teams.
The Texas Dept. of Public Safety is on the scene of the tense hostage situation in Colleyville, Texas.
They are working with local and federal teams to achieve the best and safest outcome.
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) January 15, 2022
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said he is closely monitoring the operation and was ready to assist the Colleyville Police Department.
I am closely monitoring the Texas SWAT operation at a Dallas area synagogue today.
My office stands ready to assist the @ColleyvillePD.
— Texas Attorney General (@TXAG) January 15, 2022
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.
We are appalled by the hostage situation at Congregation Beth Israel and condemn this attack on a house of worship. We stand in solidarity with the rabbi and congregation. We pray for a peaceful end to this travesty and for the perpetrator to be brought to justice.
— Muslim Advocates (@MuslimAdvocates) January 15, 2022
Texas Congressman Craig Goldman asked others to join him in prayer for the Rabbi and his synagogue.
Please join me in prayer for the safety of Rabbi Charlie and all the congregants at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville.
— Craig Goldman (@GoldmanCraig) January 15, 2022
Former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke sent strength to Colleyville.
Sending strength to Colleyville as another Texas community is tragically targeted by a gunman.
If you’re in the area, please heed the warnings of local officials and avoid the vicinity around the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue.
You can find updates in this thread. https://t.co/oWKGBeAcGf
— Beto O’Rourke (@BetoORourke) January 15, 2022
Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson said the Dallas Police Department would deploy additional patrols to Dallas synagogues as a precaution.
As a precaution, @DallasPD is deploying additional patrols to Dallas synagogues and other sites. Police are working with the Jewish Federation and our local, state, and federal partners to monitor any concerns or threats based on the situation in Colleyville.
— Mayor Eric Johnson (@Johnson4Dallas) January 15, 2022
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.
— Mayor Mattie Parker (@MayorMattie) January 15, 2022
Los Angeles Police also announced they would be increasing patrols as a precautionary measure.
We’re closely following a hostage situation that is taking place at a synagogue in Colleyville, TX. We’re working with our federal partners, increasing patrols around synagogues in LA as a precautionary measure, and conducting community outreach to ensure the safety of Angelenos. https://t.co/ASQ9hRChVH
— LAPD HQ (@LAPDHQ) January 15, 2022
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