A gunman has taken hostages at a synagogue in Texas and is demanding the release of a convicted murderer known as ‘Lady Al-Qaeda’ from a US prison.
Police in Colleyville, on the outskirts of Fort Worth, were called to the Congregation Beth Israel at 10.41am on Saturday and were still negotiating with the hostage taker more than six hours later at 5pm.
According to reports, the gunman is demanding the release of Aafia Siddiqui, an alleged terrorist serving 86 years in a Texas prison for attempting to kill US soldiers in Afghanistan.
SWAT teams were on the scene along with agents from the FBI, while the White House and the governor of Texas said they were monitoring the situation. Police said no one had been injured as of 5pm.
The Colleyville Police Department said: “On Saturday 15 January 2022, at approximately 10.41am, the Colleyville Police Department received a call for service in the 6100 block of Pleasant Run Roads.
“Officers arrived on the scene and observed an emergency situation that warranted evacuation of the surrounding areas, and an external perimeter was established…
“Law enforcement has confirmed that there are others inside but no injuries have been reported. FBI crisis negotiators are in communication with the subject. It remains an active operational and investigative scene.”
The incident began while a service was being live streamed on Facebook, leading remote congregants to hear a man, likely the attacker, shouting on their feed.
In clips posted on Twitter before the original live stream was removed, a man can be heard saying: “What the f— is wrong with America? There is something f***ing wrong with this system that you are still trying to do a deal with me.”
According to ABC News, the suspect is called Muhammad Siddiqui and claims to be the brother of Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist currently serving an 86-year prison sentence in Fort Worth, Texas for attempting to murder a US soldier in Afghanistan.
A source at the scene told ABC that the suspect was armed and claimed to have bombs in unknown locations, demanding that Aafia Siddiqui be set free.
In one clip posted on Twitter, the man says: “Are you gonna get my sister on the phone or not? I tell you one thing – once you get my sister, things will [inaudible]… come on, get her on.”
However, activists campaigning for Aafia Siddiqui’s release said that they were in contact with her actual brother and that he had nothing to do with the attack, which they condemned as “wicked” and “antisemitic”.
“We want to make it very well known that the hostage-taker is NOT Dr Aafia Siddiqui’s brother, who is not even in the same region where this horrible incident is taking place,” said a joint statement from the Free Dr Afia campaign and the Houston branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (Cair).
The Jerusalem Post also reported that Muhammad Siddiqui’s lawyer has insisted he is not the man who took hostages Colleyville. The man in the live stream’s reference to his “sister” could be a generic term for someone he believes shares his ideals, equivalent to “comrade”.
Photos of the scene showed law enforcement vehicles, officers in combat gear, and an armoured van outside the front portico of the synagogue.