Police confirmed late Saturday that all four persons held hostage in a more than 10-hour siege at a Texas synagogue has been released unharmed, and their alleged captor has been killed. Both US Jewish organisations and the Israeli government condemned the hostage situation in the small Texas town of Colleyville, in which the suspect was apparently demanding the release of a convicted terrorist.
The synagogue was “penetrated” by a “rescue squad.” Colleyville police chief Michael Miller announced during a press conference on Saturday evening that the three remaining hostages trapped inside had been rescued. A first hostage was released unharmed just a few hours ago. Miller told reporters, “The suspect is dead.”
The four hostages, who included a well-liked local rabbi, Charlie Cytron-Walker, were not in need of medical attention, according to FBI Dallas Special Agent Matt DeSarno, and will be reunited with their families soon.
He stated, “He did not damage them in any way.” Journalists on the site reported hearing a huge explosion and gunshots at the synagogue immediately before the press conference. At 9:30 p.m., Texas Governor Greg Abbott declared that the remaining hostages were “out alive and well” (0330 Sunday GMT). It has been more than 10 hours since police were called to the Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, about 25 miles (40 kilometres) west of Dallas, to report an emergency.
According to ABC News, the hostage-taker was armed and claimed to have bombs hidden in various areas. Although Miller stated that “bomb techs are cleaning the site,” authorities have not confirmed this.
As per ABC, the man was seeking the release of Aafia Siddiqui, branded “Lady Qaeda” by US tabloids, according to a US official briefed on the case. DeSarno said the suspect had been identified at the press conference, but he didn’t say who he was.
The FBI special agent declined to corroborate the suspect’s demands, but claimed they were “centred on one topic that was not especially harmful to the Jewish community” and that he did not believe there was a continuing threat.
ABC initially reported that the man claimed to be Siddiqui’s brother, but later clarified that her brother is in Houston, while other experts stated the man’s Arabic term was more symbolic and signified “sister” in the Islamic faith. In a statement to CNN, Aafia Siddiqui’s lawyer stated that she has “absolutely no role” in the hostage crisis. The lawyer stated that the man was not Siddiqui’s brother and that she was appalled by his acts.
A New York court sentenced Siddiqui, a former Pakistani scientist, to 86 years in jail in 2010 for attempting to kill US officers in Afghanistan. In Pakistan, outrage over the high-profile case erupted.
She is incarcerated at the Federal Medical Center (FMC) in Fort Worth, Texas.