Texas synagogue hostages are safe, suspect who wanted known terrorist freed shot dead
UPDATE JAN. 16 at 7:15 a.m. ET: The suspect in the Texas siege was a British citizen named Malik Faisal Akram, 44, from Blackburn. His family has apologized to those who were held hostage at the synagogue for 10 hours. President Joe Biden called the man's actions an act of terrorism.
The FBI and Texas authorities resolved an hourslong hostage situation at a Dallas-Fort Worth area synagogue late Saturday after they killed an armed man who stormed the Jewish place of worship on the Sabbath and held four hostages, including a rabbi, reportedly demanding the release of a convicted terrorist whom U.S. officials once described as the “most wanted woman in the world.”
U.S. Rep. Beth Van Duyne told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram late Saturday the hostage-taker is dead.
A loud bang followed by what sounded like gunfire was heard about 9:12 p.m. Central time Saturday outside Congregation Beth Israel, a Reform synagogue in Colleyville where a hostage situation had been going on for hours.
"All hostages are out alive and safe," Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted about 9:35 p.m.
“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,” followed a tweet by Colleyville police at 9:55 p.m., hours after a male hostage had been released uninjured.
The suspect, who had not been identified but claimed to have bombs in unknown locations, took hostage of Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker and three others at the synagogue during their Sabbath morning service.
The synagogue was livestreaming its service on Facebook at the time which captured the initial part of the hostage situation before it was removed.
Rabbi Marvin Hier and Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish human rights organization, said they were praying for the safety of the hostages. “By all available information, this was a well-planned scenario designed to gain entrance into the synagogue by posing as a homeless man,” they said in a statement shared with The Christian Post.
Earlier on Saturday, law enforcement officials told CNN the man may have demanded the release of Aafia Sidiqqui, known as “Lady Al Qaeda,” who was convicted in 2010 on charges that included attempted murder and armed assault on U.S. Army officers in Afghanistan and is serving her sentence at Carswell Air Force Base near Fort Worth.
The suspect was carrying backpacks and claimed he had explosives, ABC News said, adding that law enforcement acted as if it was true.
Law enforcement had said their priority was the safety of the rabbi and the other hostages.
Officers responded after they received a call about 10:45 a.m. Saturday, Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported. They evacuated the area and called for assistance from the FBI Dallas Field Office, Tarrant Regional SWAT Team, Texas Department of Public Safety and other local agencies.
The rabbi is known for bringing all faiths together, according to The New York Times, which quoted Giovanni Capriglione, a state representative, as saying, “He has brought Christian groups, and various Muslims groups together. He is not someone who is railing against one faith or another. He’s the exact opposite.”
Siddiqui, a mother of three, was arrested in Afghanistan in 2008 when she was found with two kilos of poison sodium cyanide and plans for chemical attacks on New York’s Brooklyn Bridge and the Empire State Building, according to the Daily Mail, which said that during her trial she demanded that every jury member get DNA tested to see if they were Jewish.
Siddiqui is a Pakistani-born neuroscientist who was a biology major at MIT in Cambridge and got a doctorate in neuroscience from Brandeis University. She once reportedly told her student friends she would be proud to be on the FBI’s Most Wanted list.
She had reportedly joined a National Rifle Association class and encouraged other Muslims also to do so. And she's also known to have lied to her husband, who was surprised to learn she married him for his family’s connections to better enable her to wage jihad.
“Her hatred for the U.S. was so strong that during her interrogation she grabbed a rifle from one of her guards and shot at them shouting: ‘Death to Americans,’” according to the Mail.
Before her 2010 conviction, Siddiqui was possibly the lone female at al Qaeda’s highest echelon, and was dubbed by U.S. officials as the “most wanted woman in the world,” according to the Boston Globe, which also said the Islamic State terrorist group twice sought to trade captives for her release before beheading them.