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Hostages freed after 10-hour stand-off at Texas synagogue
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 16 - 01 - 2022

Four people who were held hostage at a synagogue in a suburb of Dallas, Texas, have been freed unharmed after a 10-hour stand-off with police.
They were taken hostage during a morning service in Colleyville on Saturday. Police deployed special weapons teams, while FBI negotiators spent hours talking to the assailant.
Explosions and gunfire could be heard before the incident ended. The hostage-taker has since died, police say.
The four people taken hostage included the synagogue's rabbi, according to US media reports.
The service was being streamed online when the incident began. One of the hostages was released unharmed six hours later, with the other three being led to safety by police several hours after that.
The rescue team breached the synagogue but it is not yet clear how the hostage-taker died or who he was.
President Joe Biden was briefed about the developing situation.
The incident began at around 11:00 local time (16:00 GMT) when police were called to the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue. People were evacuated from the area shortly after.
A live stream of the Shabbat morning service on Facebook captured audio of a man talking loudly. He could be heard saying: "You get my sister on the phone" and "I am gonna die".
He was also heard saying: "There's something wrong with America." The feed has since been taken down.
The hostage-taker was also heard demanding the release of Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist who is currently serving an 86-year prison term in the US, law enforcement officials told local media.
Siddiqui was convicted of trying to kill US military officers while in custody in Afghanistan.
Barry Klompus, a member of the congregation since it opened in 1999, said he had been told about the incident by another member and had quickly turned to the live feed until it was taken down.
"It was horrible listening and watching, and it's that much more horrible not knowing," he told Reuters news agency.
Victoria Francis told the Associated Press that she heard the man rant against America and claim he had a bomb during the live stream. "He was pretty irritated and the more irritated he got, he'd make more threats," she said.
Meanwhile, the director of the Anti-Defamation League, a US-based non-profit organization that combats antisemitism, called for vigilance in securing synagogues and Jewish institutions following the hostage situation in Texas.
"This situation is a painful reminder of the fact that synagogues in America continue to be at risk for terrorist attacks," said Jonathan A. Greenblatt, the organization's CEO and national director.
Greenblatt added that the organization urged "continued vigilance in securing synagogues and all Jewish institutions."
"The risks remain high in light of the historic level of antisemitism across the country and the proliferation of anti-Jewish hate online," he said. He also thanked authorities for their work in safely bringing out all hostages.
At a news conference Saturday night, FBI Dallas Special Agent in Charge Matthew DeSarno said authorities are still investigating the suspect's motive, but believe "he was singularly focused on one issue, and it was not specifically related to the Jewish community."
President Biden praised law enforcement officials for the rescue of four hostages at a synagogue in Colleyville, Texas, and condemned anti-Semitism in a statement released by the White House Saturday night.
"We are sending love and strength to the members of Congregation Beth Israel, Colleyville, and the Jewish community," Biden said.
"There is more we will learn in the days ahead about the motivations of the hostage taker. But let me be clear to anyone who intends to spread hate — we will stand against anti-Semitism and against the rise of extremism in this country. That is who we are, and tonight, the men and women of law enforcement made us all proud."
Though all hostages are now safe, the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue is still an active crime scene, with bomb technicians clearing the site, said Colleyville Police Chief Michael Miller at a news conference.
He added that all the hostages were adults, though did not give further information on their ages or identities.
Police received a 911 call at 10:41 a.m., Miller said. Services at the synagogue were being broadcast online through apps including Facebook and Zoom when the suspect entered and took four people hostage.
Police immediately set up a perimeter around the synagogue, evacuated houses in the area, and called out a regional SWAT team. The FBI was contacted, as well as the ATF and other federal partners.
Authorities negotiated with the suspect "all day," Miller said, adding there was "constant communication with him."
Eventually, the suspect released one hostage, who was not harmed and is now doing well, Miller said. The hostage rescue team entered the synagogue at about 9 p.m., rescuing the other three hostages. The suspect is dead, Miller confirmed.
Miller said the incident was "extremely personal" for him and his colleagues — but that he found hope "in how the community came together."
"This community, other churches, have all reached out," he said. "Food has been brought, our people have been cared for." — Agencies

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