‘Prayers Answered. All Hostages Are Out’: Texas Synagogue Standoff Ends

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted the conclusion to the tense situation just after 9:30pm local time on Jan. 15.

The synagogue had been livestreaming a Shabbat service when the hostage-taker entered the building on Saturday, Jan. 15. A scene showing law enforcement during the tense situation was tweeted by the ‘Fort Worth Star-Telegram’ on Saturday.
The synagogue had been livestreaming a Shabbat service when the hostage-taker entered the building on Saturday, Jan. 15. A scene showing law enforcement during the tense situation was tweeted by the ‘Fort Worth Star-Telegram’ on Saturday. (photo: Screenshot from Fort Worth Star-Telegram Twitter; last visited 1/16/22)

An FBI team on Saturday shot and killed a man who had taken hostages during a livestreamed service at a Texas synagogue, authorities said.

At 9:30pm local time, a loud bang followed by a short blast of rapid gunfire was heard, according to media reports from the scene. Shortly afterward, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted: “Prayers answered. All hostages are out alive and safe."

The FBI’s action culminated an 11-hour standoff at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas, located in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

The unidentified man interrupted a service at the synagogue that was being livestreamed on Facebook and took four hostages. Among them was Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, according to media reports.

According to media reports, the man claimed to be the brother of Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani woman now serving a prison sentence at a federal prison in Fort Worth for attempting to kill U.S. soldiers and FBI agents in Afghanistan.

During the standoff, Saddiqui’s lawyer, Marwa Elbially, released a statement saying, “We want to verify that the perpetrator is NOT Dr. Aafia‘s brother who is a respected architect and member of the community. Whoever the assailant is, we want him to know that his actions are condemned by Dr. Aafia and her family,” calling the suspect’s actions “heinous and wrong.”  

During the standoff, Bishop Michael Olson of Fort Worth made an urgent request to Catholics to pray for those involved in a hostage situation.

“Please pray for the safety of the hostages, their families, this congregation, for the members of law enforcement, and for the peaceful surrender of the perpetrator(s) of this crime,” Bishop Olson said in a message posted on Twitter.

A nearby parish, Good Shepherd Catholic Church, provided first responders and members of the media access to warm shelter, restrooms, coffee and food during the standoff.

In a follow-up tweet, Bishop Olson said “thanks be to God for their safety. Thank you to the parishioners of @goodshepherd_tx and their pastor Fr. Michael Higgins, TOR, for their assistance and charitable support for first responders and families of hostages.”

Colleyville Police Chief Michael Miller also thanked the Catholic parish for its support during the crisis. “I am Christian, I am a believer, and I immediately activated a prayer network,” Miller told the press.

Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist who graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and lived in the Boston area before returning to Pakistan, was detained in July 2008 by Afghan police.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Afghan authorities “found a number of items in her possession, including handwritten notes that referred to a ‘mass casualty attack’ and that listed various locations in the United States, including Plum Island, the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, Wall Street, and the Brooklyn Bridge.”

During a subsequent interrogation at an Afghan police compound, Siddiqui “grabbed a U.S. Army officer's M-4 rifle and fired it at another U.S. Army officer and other members of U.S. interview team,” the Justice Department said. She was convicted in September 2010 of trying to kill U.S. soldiers and F.B.I. agents and sentenced to 86 years in federal prison.

The Fort Worth chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which has asserted  Siddiqui’s innocence, announced in July 2021 that she had been attacked by another inmate and was in solitary confinement.

CAIR National Deputy Director Edward Ahmed Mitchell issued a statement Saturday condemning the hostage-taking at the  synagogue.

“This latest antisemitic attack at a house of worship is an unacceptable act of evil. We stand in solidarity with the Jewish community, and we pray that law enforcement authorities are able to swiftly and safely free the hostages,” the statement said. “No cause can justify or excuse this crime.”

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