Four hostages were spared and their captor was killed, ending an hourslong standoff at a Texas synagogue, where the man — a British national — could be heard ranting on a livestream and demanding the release of a Pakistani neuroscientist who was convicted of trying to kill U.S. Army officers in Afghanistan.
One hostage was released during the Saturday standoff at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville and the three others got out at around 9 p.m. when an FBI SWAT team entered the building, authorities said. The hostage-taker was killed, and FBI Special Agent in Charge Matt DeSarno said a team would investigate “the shooting incident.” But FBI and police spokeswomen declined to answer questions about who shot the man.
Video from Dallas TV station WFAA showed people running out a door of the synagogue, and then a man holding a gun opening the same door just seconds later before he turned around and closed it. Moments later, several rounds of gunfire could be heard, followed by the sound of an explosion.
DeSarno said the hostage-taker was specifically focused on an issue not directly connected to the Jewish community, and there was no immediate indication that the man was part of any broader plan. But DeSarno said the agency’s investigation “will have global reach.”
It wasn’t clear why the attacker chose the synagogue.
Law enforcement officials who were not authorized to discuss the ongoing investigation and who spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity earlier said the hostage-taker demanded the release of Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist suspected of having ties to al-Qaida who is in a federal prison in Texas. He also said he wanted to be able to speak with her, according to the officials, one of whom confirmed that the hostage-taker was a British national.
DeSarno said Saturday night that the man had been identified “but we are not prepared to release his identity or confirm his identity at this time.”
A rabbi in New York City received a call from the rabbi believed to be held hostage in the synagogue to demand Siddiqui’s release, a law enforcement official said. The New York rabbi then called 911.
Police were first called to the synagogue around 11 a.m. and people were evacuated from the surrounding neighborhood soon after that, FBI Dallas spokeswoman Katie Chaumont said.
Saturday’s services were being livestreamed on the synagogue’s Facebook page for a time. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported that an angry man could be heard ranting and talking about religion at times during the livestream, which didn’t show what was happening inside the synagogue.
Shortly before 2 p.m., the man said, “You got to do something. I don’t want to see this guy dead.” Moments later, the feed cut out. A spokesperson for Meta Platforms Inc., the corporate successor to Facebook Inc., later confirmed that Facebook had removed the video.
Multiple people heard the hostage-taker refer to Siddiqui as his “sister” on the livestream. But John Floyd, board chair for the Houston chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, — the nation’s largest Muslim advocacy group — said Siddiqui’s brother, Mohammad Siddiqui, was not involved.
“This assailant has nothing to do with Dr. Aafia, her family, or the global campaign to get justice for Dr. Aafia. We want the assailant to know that his actions are wicked and directly undermine those of us who are seeking justice for Dr. Aafia,” said Floyd, who also is legal counsel for Mohammad Siddiqui. “We have confirmed that the family member being wrongly accused of this heinous act is not near the DFW Metro area.”
Texas resident Victoria Francis told the AP that she watched about an hour of the livestream before it cut out. She said she heard the man rant against America and claim he had a bomb.
“He was just all over the map. He was pretty irritated and the more irritated he got, he’d make more threats, like ‘I’m the guy with the bomb. If you make a mistake, this is all on you.’ And he’d laugh at that,” she said. “He was clearly in extreme distress.”
Francis, who grew up near Colleyville, tuned in after she read about the hostage situation. She said it sounded like the man was talking to the police department on the phone, with the rabbi and another person trying to help with the negotiations.
Colleyville, a community of about 26,000 people, is about 15 miles (23 kilometers) northeast of Fort Worth. The synagogue is nestled among large houses in a leafy residential neighborhood that includes several churches, a middle and elementary school and a horse farm.
Congregation Beth Israel is led by Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, who has been there since 2006 as the synagogue’s first full-time rabbi. He has worked to bring a sense of spirituality, compassion and learning to the community, according to his biography on the temple’s website, and he loves welcoming everyone, including LGBT people, into the congregation.
Anna Salton Eisen, a founder and former president of the synagogue, said the congregation has about 140 members and Cytron-Walker has worked hard to build interfaith relationships in the community, including doing pulpit swaps and participating in a community peace walk. She described Saturday’s events as “surreal.”
“This is unlike anything we’ve ever experienced. You know, it’s a small town and it’s a small congregation,” Eisen said as the hostage situation was ongoing. “No matter how it turns out it’s hard to fathom how we will all be changed by this, because surely we will be.”
President Joe Biden issued a statement thanking law enforcement after the hostage situation ended.
“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 anti-Semitism and against the rise of extremism in this country,” Biden said.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said on Twitter that he had been monitoring the situation closely. “This event is a stark reminder that antisemitism is still alive and we must continue to fight it worldwide,” he wrote. He said he was “relieved and thankful” that the hostages were rescued.
Law enforcement officials talk to each other after a news conference where they announced that all hostages were safe and the hostage taker was dead. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
The standoff had prompted increased security in other places, including New York City, where police said that they had increased their presence “at key Jewish institutions” out of an abundance of caution.
Aafia Siddiqui earned advanced degrees from Brandeis University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology before she was sentenced in 2010 to 86 years in prison on charges that she assaulted and shot at U.S. Army officers after being detained in Afghanistan two years earlier. The punishment sparked outrage in Pakistan among political leaders and her supporters, who viewed her as victimized by the American criminal justice system.
In the years since, Pakistan officials have expressed interest publicly in any sort of deal or swap that could result in her release from U.S. custody, and her case has continued to draw attention from supporters. In 2018, for instance, an Ohio man who prosecutors say planned to fly to Texas and attack the prison where Siddiqui is being held in an attempt to free her was sentenced to 22 years in prison.
Please don’t call this a synagogue.
The State of Israel should have nothing more to do with this situation than the Commonwealth of Australia has anything to do with this.
Who the %$# asked the Zionists to send their consul general?
This is real islamafobia for sure
This is clearly fake news. How many times do we have to be lectured by President Biden and his sidekick Jen Psaki about the “real” danger this nation faces? WHITE supremacy is THEE greatest threat facing this Nation! WHITE Trump supporters are all domestic terrorist racists. Jan 6 Jan 6 Jan 6 Jan 6. Please remove this story immediately. I’m very concerned about backlash against the Muslim American community!
OMG, how pathologically ARROGANT can you be!!!!
WHO CARES if it’s Reform!
THEY ARE STILL JEWS!!!!
Shema ISRAEL…..ALL OF ISRAEL, not just the Orthodox!
It’s just not worth the risk. Just don’t. Just don’t daven at the Reformed shul.
In this case, it was fortunate they were still doing a virtual “service” due to covid. Otherwise, there likely would have been more hostages.
Reform not reformed
Reform temple is not a shul.
Hostages freed and terrorist is dead.
Too bad he’s dead, now Amira Hass of Haaretz cannot have a conversation with him.
Kach is the only one of you commentators who has any sense. So you all feel the 11 people murdered at Tree of Life wasn’t a horrific massacre? Only Poway was, because that’s an Orthodox shul?
You all make me sick.
Kol hakovod to the FBI/HRT out of Quantico who flew down within hours of the attack and took out the terrorist.
The ONLY concern the ujm-track minded Katanim have is their usual agenda…
The very fact that they were targeted for only one reason doesn’t concern them..
They were targeted for no other reason than being Jewish.
Ujm and the J rat are kool aid chugging mental midgets
No need for anyone now or in future to address their infantile 3rd grade comments ( no offense to 8 yr olds )
Kach, 1. How do you know they were all Jews? We don’t consider one to be Jewish if their mother is non-Jewish. We don’t consider one Jewish if they didn’t undergo an Orthodox conversion process. “All of Israel”, as you call it, is NOT Jewish, according to Halacha. 2. We indeed should respect and daven for the safety of humanity, from any form of danger. So, in that regard I’m thankful none of the hostages were harmed.
יתמו חטאים מן הארץ – חטאים ולא חוטאים
How ignorant some of these comments are. Do you think the gunman knew if it was orthodox, reform or conservative? It could chas vesholom be ANY shul. Hitler yms and his Nazis didn’t differentiate. It’s the Jewish bit they don’t like, not the frum or otherwise part.
Gadolhd: who are you kidding? Reform services weren’t garnering any attendance long before covid. Now had he walked into a Jewish house of worship, there would have been crowds. Bh all the hostages are safe.
Ujm and hakatan: od yavo hayom the day you will thank hashem that Israel has come to save you. Just like rav yoel. Od yavo.
I agree with Katch ☝️
“OMG, how pathologically ARROGANT can you be!!!!
WHO CARES if it’s Reform!
THEY ARE STILL JEWS!!!!
Shema ISRAEL…..ALL OF ISRAEL, not just the Orthodox!”
Thank you Katch
I think the lesson is that we should all be davening at virtual minaynim until further notice, at least until the threat of terrorism subsides.
Hey Abbott! A big well done to You & the FBI hostage team. I wonder if this bum was related to any of the Squad members?
The comments on here are appalling. This is not the moment to judge yiddishkeit. Acheinu kol bais yisroel.
Thank G the hostages were freed. Matir asurim.
I grew up in a reform synagogue. They had orthodox people teaching there in addition to reform teachers. The beauty of Yiddishkeit taught to me there and their Ahavas Yisrael brought me and several other friends on the path to becoming the frum Jews we are today.
The lack of love for all Jews, let alone to daven for any human in a hostage situation is truly disgusting. Gratitude to those who expressed their dismay in the comments.
I hope Hashem judges you with more love than you judge His creations.
What a sadness!
It will probably turn out this Terrorist got through the southern border or was poorly screened at other customs points. The Dem Motto: “If it stands We’ll put a Ballot in their hand”
sprubin: Hitler also considered you Jewish if your parental grandfather was Jewish but you and your parents were practicing Christians.
Are you a follower of Hitler’s definition of Jewish?
The Reform adherents are a mix of gentiles and Jews; it isn’t Jewish. And the religion is plainly heretical.
besalel: The zionist kastner was a mass murderer of Jews who collaborated with Adolf Eichmann to kill half a million Hungarian Jews. Do you thank Adolf Eichmann for saving Rav Yoel, since Eichmann authorized the train?
How do you know they’re Jews? How do you know they’re “Acheinu”? The MAJORITY of Reform “Jews” are NOT Jews, and therefore NOT our brothers. That includes the majority of Reform “rabbis”.
A large minority are Jewish, so there’s a good chance that at least one of the hostages was Jewish, and perhaps all of them were. In some parts of the country that is probably also true of Buddhist temples, so we should have the same concern if such a thing were to happen in one of those.
Finally, I ask all these commenters what they would say if this were to happen at a “Messianic synagogue”. Would they still be up in arms, even though a “Messianic synagogue” is just a Baptist church with Hebrew, and the majority of “Messianic Jews” are not Jewish?
Before Covid, this shul/synagogue/temple/congregation apparently had about 30-40 daveners/congregants/attendees/participants on a typical Shabbat/Sabbath/ Shabos morning. They initially reopened to live services in the Fall but just went back to streaming with Omicron.
I am reformed, but I don´t believe how god allowed this to happen. Therefore, due to lack of belief, I am turning frum.
Authorities on Sunday identified a 44-year-old British national as the man who took four people hostage at a Texas synagogue for 10 hours before an FBI SWAT team stormed the building, ending a tense standoff that President Joe Biden called “an act of terror.”
Malik Faisal Akram was shot and killed after the last of the hostages got out at around 9 p.m. Saturday at Congregation Beth Israel near Fort Worth. In a statement, the FBI said there was no indication that anyone else was involved, but it didn’t provide a possible motive.
Too bad history hasn’t taught some of you anything!
Some of you need to read up on Nuremberg laws!
In their eyes, WE’RE ALL JEWS!
Kach: you’re missing the point. They don’t believe in anything Judaism has to offer. Not only that but most of them were not born to a Jewish mother. They are not actually Jewish in any way. As rabbi Meir Kahane used to say, these people would not recognize a Jewish thought if it came out and bit them on the nose. They are not Jews. It’s not debatable.
Besalel: know that for sure, do you?
You are the one missing the point. Even if they were “reform”, which is debatable, the very fact that they were in a Jewish oriented prayer service automatically made them a target of this raghead!
And if they ARE looking to rekindle that tiny last spark, who are you, oh so “righteous Orthodox” to prevent them and to look down in them? It is this kind of demented ARROGANCE that has pushe so many away!
Besalel: It took me 20 years to come back because of people like you and the rest of the arrogant Ortho-trash.
From my yeshiva class, I was THE ONLY ONE to return. The rest moved away and never came back!
Instead of looking down at those who are not as religious as you lot, try looking ACROSS at them. You’ll get better results and less people hating you!
Even in Texas, Reform Jews don’t carry guns. It’s against their religion.
Note that the “rabbi” gave thanks to be alive for the “vigils and prayers”, “law enforcement”, “security training”, his family, and “the CBI Community, the Jewish Community, the Human Community”. He somehow forgot to mention HKB”H.
Not a Shul at all! First of all why they zooming on a Shabbos and second of all this so-called leftist progressive Rabbi has signed petitions Sanction and israel so he’s a traitor
Kach, so now the Nazis pasken for us who are Jews? I thought the Torah decides that. Oseh maaseh amcha. Perhaps tinokos shenishbu included. Not admixtures of bad geirus, generations of intermarriage, and local gentiles joining the Jews.