One man has been released uninjured from a Dallas-area synagogue standoff where a man has been holding at least four people hostage.
Shortly after 5 p.m. local time, a male hostage was released uninjured. This man will be reunited with his family as soon as possible and he does not require medical attention. FBI Crisis Negotiators continue contact with the hostage taker.
The Colleyville Police Department said on Twitter it was conducting SWAT operations at the location of Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas. The FBI and Texas Department of Public Safety were also at the scene, according to CNN. The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said in a tweet it was also assisting with the situation.
CNN reported that no injuries were reported so far, and residents in the immediate area were evacuated.
The synagogue had been live-streaming its service on Facebook when listeners started to hear muffled audio between an alleged hostage-taker and negotiators, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. The video has since been taken down.
The paper said an angry man could be heard ranting and talking about religion, but the live stream did not show what was happening inside the building. The man reportedly mentioned his sister and Islam, and said repeatedly he thought he was going to die, according to the report.
Texas resident Victoria Francis told The Associated Press that she watched about an hour of the live stream 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 lives in Rhome, Texas and 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.
When the live stream cut out, the man was getting pretty irate, Francis told AP.
“It’s a scary situation. I’m hopeful it ends the best way it can, obviously with no one hurt,” she said. “Especially in this area, you never think something like this is going to hit home until it does.”
Colleyville, a town of about 26,000, is about 16 miles northeast of Fort Worth.
A White House official told NBC News that it is “closely monitoring” the potential hostage situation.
The hostage taker has told authorities he wants the release of Aafia Siddiqui from federal prison, according to NBC News, citing three senior law enforcement officials. Siddiqui was convicted by a federal jury in 2010 for attempting to kill U.S. officers in Afghanistan. She’s currently being held at FMC Carswell in Fort Worth, Texas. It wasn’t immediately clear if the person is related to Siddiqui.
Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist with advanced degrees from Brandeis University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 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.
Three senior law enforcement officials briefed on the matter say the hostage taker had the rabbi in Dallas call a rabbi in New York City, NBC News reported. The New York rabbi then called 911. As a precaution, the New York Police Department is deploying extra police to local synagogues said but there is no known additional threat at this time.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said he was monitoring the situation closely. “We pray for the safety of the hostages and rescuers,” he wrote on Twitter.
Israel’s consul general in Houston is on her way to the scene of the incident, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said in a statement, adding that Israeli officials “are in close contact with American law enforcement agencies.”
—The Associated Press contributed to this article.