Texas synagogue hostages freed and ‘British’ captor dead after hours-long siege

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Texas hostage-taking

Texas synagogue hostages freed and ‘British’ captor dead after hours-long siege

Police say they are still trying to determine why the man took the rabbi and three other people captive at the Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville

Michael Daventry is Jewish News’s foreign and broadcast editor

A hostage incident at a Texas synagogue is over after a rabbi and three people were freed and their captor pronounced dead following a police operation that lasted several hours.

The FBI and local SWAT teams had been in place outside the service at Congregation Beth Israel in the town of Colleyville, northwest in Dallas, since Saturday morning, when a Shabbat morning service was interrupted.

There have been suggestions that the captor, who was armed, may have been a British man of Pakistani origin, but officials refused to confirm his name.

The FBI has launched a global inquiry that involves British and Israeli investigators.

The synagogue service was being livestreamed on Facebook with few physical participants because of coronavirus regulations, meaning many hundreds of congregants watched in horror as the man interrupted it.

There was no footage of the moment he entered because viewers were being shown a slide, but audio remained switched on.

A man could be heard ranting, occasionally with expletives, and saying repeatedly that he was going to die.

He was also heard demanding the release of Aafia Siddiqui, the Pakistani neuroscientist suspected of having ties to al-Qaida who is serving an 86-year jail sentence in in the nearby town of Fort Worth.

Matthew DeSarno, the FBI special agent in charge of the investigation, told a press conference: “We do believe that, from engaging with the subject, he was singularly focused on one issue and it was not specifically related to the Jewish community.”

His remarks were first reported by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, a local newspaper.

It is not yet clear whether the hostage taker was shot by himself or by police.

Colleyville police chief Michael Miller said: “[That is] part of the ongoing investigation and it’s still an active crime scene, so while the situation has been resolved, the evidence response team from the FBI is going to be coming in and going to be processing that.

“Bomb techs are clearing the scene as well, so I don’t have a lot of information about that at this point.”

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