COLLEYVILLE, Texas – Hostages who had been held for hours inside a Texas synagogue were rescued Saturday night, according to Gov. Greg Abbott, bringing an end to a standoff that had lasted nearly 12 hours.
“Prayers answered. All hostages are out alive and safe,” Abbott tweeted.
Abbott's tweet came not long after a loud bang and what sounded like gunfire was heard coming from the synagogue, where authorities said a man had held people captive as he demanded the release of a Pakistani neuroscientist who was convicted of trying to kill U.S. Army officers in Afghanistan.
The hostage-taker was later declared dead, according to a law enforcement official who spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity. Details of the rescue or the man's death were not immediately released.
At least four hostages were initially believed to be inside the synagogue, according to three law enforcement officials who were not authorized to discuss the ongoing investigation and who spoke to the AP on the condition of anonymity. The synagogue's rabbi was believed to be among the hostages, one of the officials said. One of the officials said the man claimed to be armed but authorities had not confirmed whether he was.
The Colleyville Police Department said one hostage was released uninjured shortly after 5 p.m. Saturday. The man was expected to be reunited with his family and did not require medical attention. A law enforcement official said the first hostage who was released was not the rabbi.
Authorities are still trying to discern a precise motive for the attack. The hostage-taker was heard demanding the release of Aafia Siddiqui, the Pakistani neuroscientist suspected of having ties to al-Qaida, the officials said. He also said he wanted to be able to speak with her, according to the officials. Siddiqui is in federal prison in Texas.
The officials said investigators have not identified the man and cautioned that the information was based on a preliminary investigation.
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 spokesperson Katie Chaumont said.
The 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 Meta company spokesperson later confirmed that Facebook removed the video.
Multiple people heard the hostage-taker refer to Siddiqui as his “sister” on the livestream, but Faizan Syed, the executive director of Council on American-Islamic Relations in Dallas Fort-Worth Texas, told The Associated Press that Siddiqui's brother, Mohammad Siddiqui, was not involved. Syed said CAIR's support and prayers were with the people being held in the synagogue.
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.