FBI storms Texas synagogue to free hostages, gunman dead

COLLEYVILLE, Texas, Jan 16 (Reuters) – An FBI hostage rescue team stormed a synagogue in Colleyville, Texas on Saturday night to free the three remaining hostages of a gunman who had disrupted a service cleric and started a confrontation with the police more than 10 hours earlier. .

All of the hostages were safely released Saturday night and the shooter was dead, Colleyville Police Chief Michael Miller told a news conference.

The shooter initially took four people, including the rabbi, hostage at Congregation Beth Israel, officials said. A hostage was released unharmed six hours later.

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Reporters said they heard the sound of explosions, possibly flashbangs, and the sound of gunfire shortly before Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced the crisis was over.

“Prayers answered. All hostages got out safe and sound,” Abbott said on Twitter. The FBI said it had confirmed the identity of the shooter but said it would not release it yet. The FBI declined to confirm the cause of her death, saying it was still under investigation.

The UK Foreign Office has confirmed the death of a Briton in Texas, when asked to respond to a Sky News report that the shooter was a British national. The Foreign Office did not explicitly say the deceased Briton was the shooter. Read more

The Colleyville Police Department said it initially responded to the synagogue with SWAT teams in response to emergency calls beginning around 10:41 a.m. during the Shabbat service, which was streamed online. FBI negotiators quickly contacted the man, who said he wanted to speak to a woman being held in federal prison.

No injuries were reported among the hostages.

For the first few hours, the man could be heard having a one-sided conversation in what appeared to be a phone call during a Facebook live stream from the service of the Reform Jewish Synagogue in Colleyville, about 26 miles north -is. of Fort Worth. The live stream was discontinued around 3 p.m. EST (2000 GMT).

“COURAGEOUS WORK”

Before the live stream ended, the man could be heard ranting and talking about religion and his sister, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported. The man could be heard repeatedly saying he didn’t want to see anyone hurt and that he believed he was going to die, the newspaper said.

Emergency responders are seen near a synagogue where a man allegedly took people hostage at a synagogue during live-streamed services, in Colleyville, Texas, U.S., January 15, 2022. REUTERS/Shelby Tauber

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President Joe Biden, who was briefed on the crisis as it unfolded, praised the “courageous work” of state, local and federal law enforcement to free the hostages.

“We will learn more in the days to come about the hostage taker’s motives. But let me be clear to anyone who intends to spread hatred: we will oppose anti-Semitism and the rise of extremism in this country,” he added. he said in a statement.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett noted he prayed for the safety of the hostages.

Barry Klompus, a member of the congregation since it opened in 1999, said he listened to the live stream.

“It was horrible to listen to and watch,” Klompus said in a phone interview.

A US official briefed on the matter told ABC News the hostage taker claimed to be the brother of Pakistani neuroscientist Aafia Siddiqui, who is serving an 86-year prison sentence in the United States for her 2010 conviction for shot at soldiers and FBI agents, and that he demanded that she be released.

Siddiqui is being held in a federal prison in the Fort Worth area. A lawyer representing Siddiqui, Marwa Elbially, told CNN in a statement that the man was not Siddiqui’s brother. He implored the man to release the hostages, saying Siddiqui’s family condemned his “heinous” actions.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), an advocacy group for American Muslims, condemned the man’s actions.

“This latest anti-Semitic attack on American Jews praying in a synagogue is an act of pure evil,” CAIR said in a statement.

Klompus said he was unaware of any previous significant threats to the congregation.

“We don’t have a security guard on our team, but we have what I would say are very good relations with the local police,” he said.

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Reporting by Shelby Tauber in Colleyville, Texas, and Aram Roston, Daphne Psaledakis, Jonathan Allen and Valerie Volcovici; Additional reporting by Andrea Shalal and Marice Richter and William James; Editing by Jonathan Oatis, Leslie Adler, Tom Hogue and Emelia Sithole-Matarise

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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