FBI rescues four people held hostage at Texas synagogue

Saturday morning, an armed man took four people hostage at the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue in Colleyville, Texas. The 10-hour drama ended with an FBI rescue, during which the suspect was shot dead. He was later identified as a 44-year old British citizen.

An armed suspect took a rabbi and three others hostage at the Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville before noon Saturday, claiming to have planted bombs at a number of unspecified locations.

The Colleyville Police Department said it first responded to the synagogue with SWAT teams in response to emergency calls beginning at about 10:41 am during the Shabbat service, which was being broadcast online.

In the first few hours, the man could be heard having a one-sided conversation in what appeared to be a phone call with law enforcement engaged in negotiating with him to end the standoff. He was also heard ranting about religion and said he did not want anyone to get hurt.

He demanded to speak to a US federal inmate, the Pakistani neuroscientist Aafia Siddiqui, claiming that she was his “sister”. Siddiqui is alleged to have ties to al-Qaeda and was sentenced to 86 years of firing at US army officers in Afghanistan.

One hostage was freed six hours into the standoff. The FBI rescue team stormed the synagogue 4 hours later, and freed the remaining hostages. No injuries were reported among the hostages, but the suspect was shot dead. He was later identified as a 44-year old British citizen, Malik Faisal A.

According to Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson, the Dallas Police Department is deploying additional patrols to city synagogues and other sites “as a precaution”. “Police are working with the Jewish Federation and our local, state, and federal partners to monitor any concerns or threats based on the situation in Colleyville.”

President Joe Biden, who was briefed on the crisis as it unfolded, praised the “courageous work” of state, local and federal law enforcement in freeing the hostages. He condemned the incident as “an act of terror”, speaking about the need for gun control measures. „The idea of background checks are critical, but you can’t stop something like this if someone’s on the streets buying something from somebody else on the streets,” he 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 antisemitism and against the rise of extremism in this country,” President Biden said in his statement.