COLLEYVILEY, Texas – Officers in north Texas are involved in a standoff and hostage situation at a synagogue Saturday afternoon, officials said.
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Colleyville Police Department said Twitter Fort Worth’s Star-Telegram reported that the agency was conducting “SWAT operations” outside the Beth Israel synagogue. The newspaper reported that people in the immediate area have been evacuated safely.
FBI negotiators are the ones who have contact with the person in the building.” Colleyville Police Sergeant Dara Nelson told reporters. Nelson said “there is no danger to the general public” at this time.
Update 6:02PM EST Jan. 15: Officials said the hostage-taker was heard demanding the release of Afiya Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist with ties to al-Qaeda. A law enforcement official told The Associated Press that he was convicted in 2010 of trying to kill US military officers two years earlier while in custody in Afghanistan. The Star-Telegram reported that Siddiqui is in federal prison in Fort Worth, Texas, where he is serving an 86-year sentence.
The Dallas-Fort Worth sector of the Council on American-Islamic Relations said that according to the Star-Telegram, Siddiqui told his lawyer that he was attacked in his cell on July 30.
Update 5:43 p.m. EST Jan. 15: According to KTVT-TV, Greater Dallas Eric Johnson said the Dallas Police Department is increasing security in Dallas synagogues and the Jewish community. The television station also reported that Fort Worth Police Department Fort Worth is also increasing patrols around synagogues in the area.
Update 5:32 p.m. EST Jan. 15: According to its website, the congregation Beth Israel began in 1998 as a chavra, a small group of Jewish people who gather for prayer services. According to The Dallas Morning News, the group officially established a synagogue in Collyville in July 1999 and began services at its current location in 2005.
Update 5:06 a.m. EST Jan. 15: At least four hostages were believed to be inside the synagogue, according to two law enforcement officers who spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity. One of the officers said the synagogue’s rabbi, Charlie Citron-Walker, was believed to be one of the hostages.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted That he continues to monitor the situation through the Texas Department of Public Safety. The White House is also monitoring the standoff, according to Press Secretary Jen Psaki.
Update 4:20PM EST Jan. 15: CNN and ABC News are reporting that an armed suspect took a rabbi and three others hostage. Rabbi Charlie is believed to be Citron-Walker.
Colleyville Police and the FBI have not confirmed that information.
Original report: As The Dallas Morning News reports, during a live stream of the church’s Shabbat Morning Service, a man can be heard speaking angrily several times.
The livestream began at around 10 a.m. CST and went on for about four hours before finally closing. The newspaper reported that the video did not show what was going on inside the building. According to WFAA-TV, Coffeyville police dispatchers confirmed that the livestream had ended.
Shortly before 2 pm CST, the man can be heard saying, “You have to do something. I don’t want to see this man dead, the Associated Press reported.
Before the livestream ended, vague audio could be heard of what looked like a conversation with the executives, reports Star-Telegram.
According to the livestream, the man repeatedly referred to his sister and Islam, sprinkling his speech with profanity, reports Star-Telegram. According to the newspaper, at one point, another voice can be heard while communicating with the police.
The city of Colleyville is located approximately 17 miles northeast of Fort Worth.
According to the Texas Department of Public Security, WFAA reports that state troops are assisting Collieville Police at the scene.
The Star-Telegram reported that it was not clear how many people were in the synagogue. Colleyville Police Sgt. Dara Nelson told reporters that no casualties were reported inside the building.
Commenters on the livestream are praying for Rabbi Charlie Citron-Walker. More than 8,000 viewers are watching the livestream.
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