Hostage situation in Texas: kidnapper killed, 4 people freed
Sylvie Claire / January 16, 2022
Four hostages held in a synagogue in Colleyville, a town in Texas in the United States, were freed unharmed on Saturday night, and their kidnapper, who was demanding the release of a Pakistani woman convicted of terrorism, died during the assault by police.
The hostage rescue team stormed the synagogue and the suspect is dead, said local police chief Michael Miller during a press conference, after a crisis that lasted nearly ten hours. All hostages were released unharmed, Texas Governor Greg Abbott had previously announced. According to reporters at the scene, a loud explosion and gunfire broke out in the synagogue just before Abbott's announcement. A few hours earlier, while fierce negotiations were taking place between the police and the kidnapper, a first hostage was released unharmed. ABC News, citing a source on the scene, reported before the release of the first hostage that the suspect was armed, was holding four people including a rabbi, and claimed to have planted bombs in unknown locations. The hostage situation occurred at Congregation Beth Israel Synagogue in Colleyville, a city of about 23,000 people in the Dallas suburbs.
The voice of a man at times agitated could be heard on the live broadcast of the church service on Facebook, consulted by AFP before its interruption. There is something wrong with America, the man said. I'm going to die, he had also said, repeatedly asking an unidentified caller that his sister be passed to him on the phone. The suspect, according to ABC News, claimed to be the brother of Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani scientist sentenced in 2010 by a federal court in New York to 86 years in prison for attempting to shoot at U.S. servicemen while she was detained in Afghanistan. He was demanding her release, the channel reported, citing an official close to the case on condition of anonymity. Aafia Siddiqui is currently being held in a prison hospital in Fort Worth, near Dallas.
However, experts have pointed out that the word used by the man in Arabic was figurative and meant sister in the Islamic faith. Aafia Siddiqui has absolutely no involvement in the hostage-taking, her lawyer told CNN in a statement. She confirmed that the man was not the brother of Mrs. Siddiqui, while ensuring that her client condemned these actions. Colleyville police evacuated residents from the area and asked the public to avoid the area. The FBI, the U.S. federal police, opened an investigation into the kidnapper, who was identified, said FBI Special Agent Matt DeSarno, but did not reveal the name of the dead suspect.
This incident has deeply affected the Jewish community in the United States. Ellen Smith, a congregant of the synagogue, described to CNN a shocking and horrifying situation. However, she said she was not surprised that the attack was targeted at the Jewish community. Cases of anti-Semitism have been increasing lately, she said. We almost feel hopeless.
No one should be afraid to gather in their place of worship, said the Jewish Community Relations Council, a San Francisco-based organization. Whoever hates me today will hate you tomorrow. So it may start with the Jews, but it won't stop with the Jews, warned Joseph Potasnik, vice president of the New York Council of Rabbis. Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett also said he was monitoring the situation.