Man Holds Texas Synagogue Hostage, Demands Release of Pakistani Neuroscientist

Authorities are still trying to discern the precise motive for the attack. The hostage taker was heard demanding the release of Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist suspected of having ties to al-Qaeda, who was found guilty of attempting to kill US military officers while she was being held in Afghanistan, officials said. He also said he wished he could speak to her, according to officials. Siddiqui is in federal prison in Texas.

Officials said investigators had not identified the man with certainty and warned the information was based on a preliminary investigation as the situation was still rapidly evolving.

A New York rabbi received a call from the rabbi who would be held hostage in the synagogue to demand Siddiqui’s release, a law enforcement official said. The New York rabbi called 911 to report the call.

Police were first called to the synagogue around 11 a.m. and people were evacuated from the surrounding neighborhood soon after, Dallas FBI spokeswoman Katie Chaumont said. No injuries were reported, Chaumont said.

“It’s an evolving situation, and we have a lot of law enforcement personnel on the scene,” Chaumont said.

Services were streamed live on the synagogue’s Facebook page for some time. the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported that an angry man could be heard ranting and talking about religion at times during the live broadcast, which did not show what was going on inside the synagogue.

Shortly before 2 p.m., the man said, “You have to do something. I don’t want to see this guy dead. Moments later, the power was cut off. A Meta company spokesperson later confirmed that Facebook had removed the video.

Several people heard the hostage taker call Siddiqui his “sister” on the livestream, but Faizan Syed, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Dallas Fort-Worth Texas, told The Associated Press that Siddiqui’s brother Siddiqui, Mohammad Siddiqui, was not involved. Syed said CAIR’s support and prayers were with those held in the synagogue.

Texas resident Victoria Francis told the AP she watched about an hour of the live broadcast before it was interrupted. She said she heard the man fuming at America and claiming he had a bomb.

“He was just all over the map. He was quite irritated and the more irritated he was, the more threats he made, like “I’m the guy with the bomb”. If you make a mistake, it’s all up to you. And he was laughing about it,” she said. “He was clearly in extreme distress.”

Francis, who lives in Rhome, Texas and grew up near Colleyville, tuned in after reading about the hostage situation. She said it appeared the man was talking to the police department on the phone, with the rabbi and another person trying to help with negotiations.

When the live stream cut off, the man was getting quite furious, Francis said.

“It’s a scary situation. I hope it ends in the best possible way, obviously without anyone getting hurt,” she said. “Especially in this area, you never think something like this is going to hit home until it does.”

Colleyville, a community of about 26,000 people, is about 15 miles northeast of Fort Worth.

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

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said he was monitoring the situation closely. “We pray for the safety of hostages and rescuers,” he wrote on Twitter.

CAIR, the country’s largest Muslim advocacy group, condemned the attack on Saturday.

“This latest anti-Semitic attack on a place of worship is an unacceptable evil act,” CAIR Deputy National Director Edward Ahmed Mitchell said in a statement. “We stand in solidarity with the Jewish community and pray that law enforcement will be able to quickly and safely release the hostages. No cause can justify or excuse this crime.

Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist who graduated from Brandeis University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was sentenced in 2010 to 86 years in prison for assaulting and shooting US army officers after being detained in Afghanistan for two more years. early. The punishment sparked outrage in Pakistan among political leaders and her supporters, who saw her as a victim of the US criminal justice system.

In the years that followed, Pakistani officials publicly expressed interest in any sort of deal or exchange that might result in his release from U.S. custody, and his case continued to attract the attention of his supporters. In 2018, for example, an Ohio man who prosecutors say planned to fly to Texas and attack the prison where Siddiqui is being held in an effort to free her was sentenced to 22 years in prison.

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