Hostages rescued safely and suspect declared dead after 10-hour standoff inside Texas synagogue

Credit: AP

Hostages who had been held for hours inside a Texas synagogue were rescued on Saturday night, according to Texas Governor Greg Abbott, more than 10 hours after the standoff began.

“Prayers answered. All hostages are out alive and safe,” Abbott tweeted.

Abbott’s tweet came not long after a loud bang and what sounded like gunfire was heard coming from the synagogue, where authorities said a man had held people captive as he demanded the release of a Pakistani neuroscientist who was convicted of trying to kill US Army officers in Afghanistan.

One of the four hostages held at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville was released during the standoff; three others were rescued when authorities entered the building about 9pm, authorities said.The hostage-taker was killed and FBI Special Agent in Charge Matt DeSarno said a team would investigate “the shooting incident.”

An FBI and a police spokeswoman declined to answer questions about who shot the man.

DeSarno said the hostage-taker was specifically focused on an issue not directly connected to the Jewish community and there was no immediate indication that the man was part of any broader plan, but DeSarno said the agency’s investigation “will have global reach.”

DeSarno added on Saturday night that the man had been identified “but we are not prepared to release his identity or confirm his identity at this time.”At least four hostages, including a rabbi, were believed to have been inside the synagogue, Congregation Beth Israel, in Colleyville, a law enforcement official told CNN.

The Colleyville Police Department said one hostage was released uninjured shortly after 5pm on Saturday. The man was expected to be reunited with his family and did not require medical attention. A law enforcement official said the first hostage who was released was not the rabbi.

Four people including a rabbi were believed to have been held hostage. Credit: AP

Authorities are still trying to discern a precise motive for the attack. The hostage-taker was heard demanding the release of Aafia Siddiqui, the Pakistani neuroscientist suspected of having ties to al-Qaida, the officials said. He also said he wanted to be able to speak with her, according to the officials. Siddiqui is in federal prison in Texas.

The officials said investigators have not positively identified the man and cautioned that the information was based on a preliminary investigation.

The hostage happened in the middle of the Saturday service at the synagogue, which was being livestreamed on Facebook.

It is understood the livestream appeared to show part of the hostage incident before it was taken down.

Police were first called to the synagogue around 11am and people were evacuated from the surrounding neighbourhood soon after that, officials said.

The Colleyville Police Department tweeted later on Saturday afternoon that it was conducting SWAT operations at the synagogue.

FBI Dallas spokeswoman, Katie Chaumont, said an FBI SWAT team was also at the scene and that crisis negotiators had been communicating with someone inside the synagogue.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki tweeted on Saturday evening that President Joe Biden had been briefed and was receiving updates from senior officials.