Hostages at Texas synagogue freed and safe after several hours, Gov. Greg Abbott says

The man claims to be the brother of convicted terrorist Aafia Siddiqui, but authorities have not yet confirmed his identity

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Saturday, January 15, 2022
Chicago-area synagogues ramp up security measures in response to TX hostage situation
As an hours-long hostage situation unfolded at a synagogue in Colleyville, Texas, some synagogues in Illinois are now with upgraded security measures.

COLLEYVILLE, Texas -- An hours-long hostage situation at a synagogue in the Dallas-Fort Worth area came to a conclusion late Saturday with all of the hostages safe, according to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.

An armed suspect claiming to have bombs in unknown locations took a rabbi and three others hostage at the Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, a source familiar with the situation told ABC News. One hostage was released uninjured at about 5 p.m. local time, Colleyville police said.

At about 9:30 p.m. local time, Abbott tweeted, "Prayers answered. All hostages are out alive and safe."

Officials have yet to say what happened to bring the hostage situation to a close, but did say the suspect is dead.

"We do believe with our engagement with the subject that he was singularly focused on one issue and it was not specifically related to the Jewish community," officials said in a press conference Saturday night, adding that they are continuing work to find a motive.

Officials have yet to say what happened to bring the hostage situation to a close, but did say the suspect is dead.

President Biden also released a statement:

"Thanks to the courageous work of state, local and federal law enforcement, four Americans who were held hostage at a Texas synagogue will soon be home with their families. I am grateful to the tireless work of law enforcement at all levels who acted cooperatively and fearlessly to rescue the hostages. We are sending love and strength to the members of Congregation Beth Israel, Colleyville, and the Jewish community.

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. That is who we are, and tonight, the men and women of law enforcement made us all proud."

During the standoff, it was unclear to what extent the hostage-taker was armed. The suspect was carrying backpacks and had said that he has explosives. Law enforcement did not know whether it was true but acted as if it was true.

Multiple law enforcement sources told ABC News the hostage-taker was demanding the release of convicted terrorist Aafia Siddiqui.

Siddiqui is incarcerated at Carswell Air Force Base near Fort Worth, according to the source. She had alleged ties to al-Qaida and was convicted of assault and attempted murder of a U.S. soldier in 2010 and sentenced to 86 years in prison.

There was believed to be one suspect, the source said. The FBI responded to the scene, along with local authorities and hostage negotiators. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives also responded to the situation, according to an agency spokesperson.

Law enforcement was hoping to defuse the situation without doing anything that could jeopardize the safety of the rabbi and the other three. They ordered the suspect food and continued to negotiate.

A White House official confirmed to ABC News that the White House is "closely monitoring" the hostage situation. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said President Joe Biden will be updated by his senior team as the situation develops,

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has also been briefed on the situation, according to a DHS spokesperson.

The Colleyville Police Department's SWAT team responded to the area before 11 a.m. Saturday and evacuated residents in the immediate area.

The Texas Department of Public Safety was also on the scene of what Abbott had described as a "tense hostage situation."

"They are working with local and federal teams to achieve the best and safest outcome," Abbott said on Twitter. "I continue to monitor the situation through DPS."

Police departments in a number of American cities, including New York and Los Angeles, said Saturday they were stepping up patrols at synagogues and other locations associated with the Jewish community out of an abundance of caution.

The Dallas Police Department is deploying additional patrols to city synagogues and other sites "as a precaution," Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson said on Twitter Saturday afternoon.

"Police are working with the Jewish Federation and our local, state, and federal partners to monitor any concerns or threats based on the situation in Colleyville," he added.

In Houston, the police department said it increased patrols at area synagogues Saturday afternoon due to the situation in Colleyville.

In a tweet, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said he had been praying for a positive outcome.

ABC News' Luke Barr contributed to this report.