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All hostages are safe after being held at Texas synagogue, authorities say

Police cars remain parked at Good Shepherd Catholic Community church on Saturday in Colleyville, Texas. Authorities said all hostages were freed safely.
Emil Lippe
/
Getty Images
Police cars remain parked at Good Shepherd Catholic Community church on Saturday in Colleyville, Texas. Authorities said all hostages were freed safely.

Updated January 16, 2022 at 12:39 AM ET

All hostages held at a synagogue in Colleyville, Texas, are now safe and physically unharmed and the suspect is dead after a 10-hour standoff on Saturday in the Dallas-Fort Worth suburb.

Officials say there is no ongoing threat to the community.

A 911 call came in at 10:41 a.m. after a gunman entered the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue during services and took four people hostage, Colleyville Police Chief Michael Miller said Saturday evening.

Law enforcement called in a SWAT team and negotiators talked with the hostage-taker throughout the day. The man released one hostage around 5 p.m. local time.

"It's very likely this situation would have ended very badly early on in the day had we not had professional, consistent negotiation with the subject," FBI Dallas Special Agent in Charge Matt DeSarno told reporters.

A special FBI hostage rescue team flew in from Quantico, Va., Miller said. The team moved in at 9 p.m. and rescued the three remaining hostages and the suspected hostage-taker was left dead.

Some 200 law enforcement personnel took part in the operation, police said.

"Prayers answered. All hostages are out alive and safe," Texas Gov. Greg Abbott wrote on Twitter late Saturday.

"We're thankful that this came to a very positive resolution," police chief Miller said.

SWAT team members deploy near the Congregation Beth Israel Synagogue in Colleyville, Texas, near Dallas, on Saturday.
Andy Jacobsohn / AFP via Getty Images
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AFP via Getty Images
SWAT team members deploy near the Congregation Beth Israel Synagogue in Colleyville, Texas, near Dallas, on Saturday.

The hostage-taker was heard on a livestream of the Shabbat service

A Shabbat service was scheduled at the Congregation Beth Israel at 10 a.m. A Facebook livestream of the service ended just before 2 p.m. The stream did not feature people on screen, but a man could be heard, speaking loudly and angrily at times.

The Associated Press reported that the man was heard on the livestream demanding the release of Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist serving an 86-year sentence in a Texas prison. Siddiqui was convicted in 2010 of shooting at U.S. soldiers and officials in Afghanistan after they arrested her on suspicion of terrorism in 2008.

Law enforcement officials would not confirm the suspect's identity, motives or demands, saying it was an ongoing investigation but there was no indication of any ongoing threat. DeSarno said the man was "singularly focused on one issue" in his demands and it was not specifically related to the Jewish community.

The long history of antisemitic attacks

The incident spurred memories of the long history of antisemitic attacks in the U.S. and around the world, including in recent years when a man opened fire on congregants at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh in 2018, killing 11 people.

The Dallas Police Department deployed additional patrols to Dallas synagogues and other sites, Mayor Eric Johnson said Saturday.

President Biden thanked law enforcement for the rescue operation. "There is more we will learn in the days ahead about the motivations of the hostage taker," Biden said in a statement. "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."

Syeda Hasan of KERA contributed reporting.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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James Doubek is an associate editor and reporter for NPR. He frequently covers breaking news for NPR.org and NPR's hourly newscast. In 2018, he reported feature stories for NPR's business desk on topics including electric scooters, cryptocurrency, and small business owners who lost out when Amazon made a deal with Apple.