Texas authorities were negotiating with a man holding hostages, including a rabbi and possibly others, at a Dallas-Fort Worth synagogue on Saturday afternoon.
The man is seeking the release of a federal prisoner who was convicted in 2010 of attempted murder in a terrorism-related case, officials said.
The Colleyville Police Department tweeted Saturday afternoon he was conducting SWAT operations at Congregation Beth Israel.
At least four hostages are believed to be inside the synagogue, according to two law enforcement officials who were not authorized to discuss the ongoing investigation and who spoke to The Associated Press under cover of anonymity.
Police were first called to the synagogue around 11 a.m. and people were evacuated from the surrounding neighborhood soon after, Chaumont said.
No injuries were reported, Chaumont said.
Three senior law enforcement officials briefed on the situation said the man was holding a rabbi, and potentially others, hostage. The man told authorities he wanted Aafia Siddiqui released from federal prison.
Siddiqui, 49, was convicted by a federal jury in 2010 of attempting to kill US officers in Afghanistan and is currently being held at FMC Carswell, a federal prison in Fort Worth, Texas.
Law enforcement officials in Texas are trying to determine if the person holding the rabbi and potentially other hostages is in fact linked to Siddiqui.
FBI Dallas spokeswoman Katie Chaumont said an FBI SWAT team was also on the scene and crisis negotiators contacted someone inside the synagogue. But she couldn’t say if the person was armed, and she declined to describe what the person said to authorities, citing operational sensitivity.
“It’s an evolving situation, and we have a lot of law enforcement personnel on the scene,” Chaumont said.
Law enforcement closed access to the roads surrounding the synagogue on Saturday afternoon.
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.
The man, who used profanity, repeatedly mentioned his sister, Islam, and that he thought he was going to die, the Star-Telegram reported.
Colleyville, a community of about 26,000 people, is about 23 kilometers northeast of Fort Worth.
Jen Psaki, White House Press Secretary tweeted By Saturday evening, President Joe Biden had been briefed and was receiving updates from senior officials.
Governor Greg Abbott tweeted that the situation was “tense” but that state law enforcement was “working with local and federal teams to achieve the best and safest outcome.”
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.
Israel’s consul general in Houston is en route to the scene of the incident, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said in a statement, adding that Israeli officials “are in close contact with U.S. law enforcement. “.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations, the nation’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.
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