FBI agents investigating a suspected terrorist incident at a Texas synagogue said the gunman appeared to have a British accent and officials will be liaising with the Metropolitan Police during the investigation.
Four hostages taken by the man who stormed the building ‘armed with backpacks of explosives’ have been released after the man was shot dead.
He held the hostages, including Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, trapped inside the Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, approximately 27 miles from Dallas, for about 10 hours before the hostages were reported free and safe.
Dramatic footage revealed the moment two hostages ran out of the temple. The suspect can be seen popping out of the door as he chases after them with a gun, but he quickly retreats back inside, closing the door after spotting the nearby SWAT team.
Dozens of agents then breach the synagogue as gunshots can be heard.
FBI special agent Matt Desarno said the agency’s Hostage Rescue Team, who were flown in from Quantico in Virginia, entered the synagogue at around 9pm CST (3am GMT), freed the hostages and killed the suspect.
He said the suspect appeared to be ‘singularly focused on one issue and it was not specifically related to the Jewish community’.
Mr Desarno added that the investigation is ongoing and they will be working with London police on the case. The suspect appeared to have a British accent when he spoke during the synagogue’s livestream.
Colleyville Police Chief Michael Miller said bomb technicians are still active at the scene as police investigate the suspect’s claims of having explosives inside the temple.
Officials said they have identified the suspect, but will not release his name yet or motive.
The suspect had demanded the release of convicted terrorist Aafia Siddiqu – known as Lady Al Qaeda – who, police say, he referred to as his ‘sister.’
However, a lawyer representing the woman’s brother denied he was involved after networks reported it was him.
Siddiqui was jailed for 86 years after being arrested in Afghanistan in 2008 for the attempted murder of a U.S. Army captain. The Pakistani-born neuroscientist was found with two kilos of poison sodium cyanide and plans for chemical attacks on New York’s Brooklyn Bridge and the Empire State Building.
From inside the Texas synagogue, the assailant told a SWAT team: ‘If anyone tries to enter this building, I’m telling you…everyone will die.’
He was caught on the synagogue’s Sabbath livestream, before it was cut off at 2pm CST, saying: ‘I’m going to die. Don’t cry about me’
The suspected terrorist spoke with a New York City rabbi earlier Saturday who was being interviewed by the FBI. He bizarrely demanded the female rabbi release Aafia.
The suspect had released one hostage earlier in the night, and at around 9pm CST (3am GMT), a loud bang was heard, followed by several gunshots, before the dramatic footage showed two of the remaining three hostages running out of the temple.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott confirmed all four hostages were out ‘alive and safe’, adding: ‘Prayers answered.’
Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson and New York City Mayor Eric Adams had deployed additional patrol units at synagogues as did other major cities, including Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. Police say there is no current threat to the general public.
One of the hostages at the Congregation Beth Israel in, Colleyville, Texas, was released and taken to his family. Authorities have said all hostages are now out and safe after the terrorist was shot
FBI special agent Matt Desarno confirmed that the suspect was dead and that all hostages were released safely and uninjured after the agency’s elite Hostage Rescue Team breached the temple
A SWAT team was set up by a nearby middle school as the hostage situation dragged on for eleven hours
The SWAT team was on standby as the FBI spoke with the suspect and investigate his background
Authorities were in negotiations with the suspect for about 10 hours
There were four hostages inside the synagogue, including the temple’s rabbi. One hostage has been released
Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker (right) is one of four being held hostage by a man claiming to be the brother of convicted terrorist Aafia Siddiqui (left) known as Lady Al Qaeda
Police are blocking roads near the temple and nearby residents have been evacuated as night falls
Armored vehicles are at the scene where the assailant claims to have bombs as the FBI attempts to diffuse the situation
Law enforcement have also gathered at the Colleyville Elementary School to help evacuate local residents
Local and federal authorities are working together to try and free all four hostages safely
The standoff is taking place at the Congregation Beth Israel, in Colleyville, just 27 miles from Dallas
Who is Aafia Siddiqui, the ‘Lady Al Qaeda’ terrorist who planned chemical attacks on Empire State Building and Brooklyn Bridge
Siddiqui, who was a biology major at MIT, said in 1993 that she wanted to do ‘something to help our Muslim brothers and sisters’ even if it meant breaking the law.
She jumped to her feet and ‘raised her skinny little wrists in the air’ in a display of defiance that shocked her friends.
An in-depth account of her journey to infamy also reveals that she took a National Rifle Association shooting class and persuaded other Muslims to learn how to fire a gun.
Siddiqui lied to her husband and after they wed over the phone he was stunned to discover she was just marrying him for his family’s connections to better enable her to wage jihad.
Two handout photos of terror suspect Aafia Siddiqui released by the FBI in May of 2004
She was arrested in Afghanistan in 2008 by local forces who found her with two kilos of poison sodium cyanide and plans for chemical attacks on New York’s Brooklyn Bridge and the Empire State Building
Siddiqui, a mother-of-three, eventually got her twisted wish and became the most wanted woman in the world by the FBI.
She was handed to the Americans and convicted of attempted murder in a U.S. court in 2010.
But her hatred for the U.S. was so strong that during her interrogation she grabbed a rifle from one of her guards and shot at them shouting: ‘Death to Americans’.
A 2014 Boston Globe profile of Siddiqui’s time in Boston sought to answer what happened during her 11 years as a student in the U.S.
Something happened to radicalize an intelligent and devout woman who not only graduated from MIT but also got a doctorate in neuroscience from Brandeis University.
At MIT she made few friends and was remembered as intelligent, driven and a regular at the Prospect Street mosque, which would later be attended by alleged Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev.
She wore long sleeves and the hijab and was seen as ‘very sweet’ for a former roommate at her all-female dorm.
The focus of her life was the Muslim Student Association but things appear to have changed with the start of the Bosnian War, which seems to have been the beginning of her radicalization.
Siddiqui became involved with the Al-Kifah Refugee Centre, a Brooklyn-based organization which is thought to have been Al Qaeda’s focus of operations in the US.
Terrorism expert Evan Kohlmann said: ‘Aafia was from a prominent family with connections and a sympathy for jihad. She was just what they needed.’
In 1993 as she and some friends debated how to raise money for Muslims being killed during the Bosnian War, one of them joked that they didn’t want to go on the FBI’s Most Wanted List.
Waqas Jilani, then a graduate student at Clark University, said: ‘She raised her skinny little wrists in the air and said: ‘I’d be proud to be on the Most Wanted list because it would mean I’m doing something to help our Muslim brothers and sisters’
‘She said we should all be proud to be on that list’.
Jilani added that Siddiqui said in her speeches that Muslims should ‘get training and go overseas and fight’.
He said: ‘We were all laughing like, ‘Uh-oh, Aafia’s got a gun!’
‘Part of it was because she was such a bad shot, but also because she was always mouthing off about the U.S. and the FBI being so bad and all.’
Siddiqui married Mohammed Amjad Khan, the son of a wealthy Pakistani family, in a ceremony carried out over the phone before he flew to Boston.
But upon arrival he discovered that far from being the quiet religious woman he had been promised, her life was very different.
He said: ‘I discovered that the well-being of our nascent family unit was not her prime goal in life. Instead, it was to gain prominence in Muslim circles.’
Khan described to the Boston Globe how she regularly watched videos of Osama bin Laden, spent weekends at terror training camps in New Hampshire with activists from Al-Kifah and begged him to quit his medical job so he could join her.
In the end he stopped bringing work colleagues home because she would ‘only to talk about them converting to Islam’.
Khan said: ‘Invariably this would lead to unpleasantness, so I decided to keep my work separate….
‘…By now, all her focus had shifted to jihad against America, instead of preaching to Americans so that they all become Muslims and America becomes a Muslim land’.
The breaking point was the September 11 2001 attacks after which Siddiqui, who was by now dressing in all black, insisted they return to Pakistan and got a divorce.
American officials suspect she remarried Ammar Al-Baluchi, the nephew of 9/11 architect Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, though her family deny this.
Siddiqui and her children disappeared in Karachi, Pakistan in 2003 shortly after Mohammed was arrested.
The following year she was named by FBI director Robert Mueller as one of the seven most wanted Al Qaeda operatives, and the only woman.
Speaking to reporters, Mr Desarno said: ‘We do believe from our engagement with this suspect that he was singularly focused on one issue and it was not specifically related to the Jewish community.
‘We are continuing to work to find motive and we will continue on that path.
‘In terms of the resolution of the incident, the hostage taker is deceased and we will conduct an independent investigation – my evidence response team will be here to process the scene and a team from Washington will be here to conduct an independent investigation of the shooting incident.’
Colleyville, Texas, police were conducting SWAT operations and local residents were told to evacuate the area.
About 200 local, state and federal law enforcement officers are assisting the scene as authorities set up by a nearby middle school, according to WFAA. The school is around the corner from the synagogue.
The White House is also ‘closely monitoring’ the situation, according to ABC’s Erielle Reshef.
Aafia’s attorney, Marwa Elbially, told CNN by phone that her client has no involvement in the hostage situation.
‘She does not want any violence perpetrated against any human being, especially in her name,’ Elbially said.
‘It obviously has nothing to do with Dr. Siddiqui or her family.’
Jonh Floyd, of the Houston branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, also confirmed Aafia’s family was not involved in the current hostage situation, and that they condemn the suspect’s actions.
‘We want the hostage-taker to know that Dr. Aafia Siddiqui and her family strongly condemn this act and do not stand by you,’ Floyd wrote in a statement directed at the hostage taker.
‘We want the assailant to know that his actions are wicked and directly undermine those of us who are seeking justice for Dr. Aafia.’
Lawyer Annette Lamoreaux who represents Siddiqui’s biological brother Mohammad, a Houston architect, told Mail Online: ‘The gunman is most definitely not her biological brother.
‘I spoke to Mohammad an hour ago and he is very upset to be implicated in this attack by the hostage-taker.’
Aafia, now 49, was jailed for 86 years after being arrested in Afghanistan in 2008 for the attempted murder of a US army captain.
The Pakistani-born neuroscientist was found with two kilos of poison sodium cyanide and plans for chemical attacks on New York’s Brooklyn Bridge and the Empire State Building.
She was handed to the Americans and convicted of attempted murder two years later in a US court.
But her hatred for the US was so strong that during her interrogation she grabbed a rifle from one of her guards and shot at them shouting: ‘Death to Americans.’
She came to the US in 1991 and won a partial scholarship to MIT, where she was a biology major.
Siddiqui was sent by her neurosurgeon father from Pakistan to study in the U.S. on her own and won a partial scholarship to study at the prestigious Cambridge school.
She arrived there in 1991 having been living with her brother in Texas, for a year where she studied at the University of Houston and gave regular speeches on Islam.
During one she told the crowd: ‘The hijab is not a restriction. It allows a woman to be judged by her content, not by her packaging, by what is written on the pages, not the pretty artwork on the cover’
In 1993, she wanted to do ‘something to help our Muslim brothers and sisters’ even if it meant breaking the law.
That same year, as she and some friends debated how to raise money for Muslims being killed during the Bosnian War, one of them joked that they didn’t want to go on the FBI’s Most Wanted List.
She then completed a 10-hour NRA shooting course at Braintree Rifle & Pistol Club on her own and urged other Muslims to join her.
She moved to Texas to be near her brother, the reported hostage taker, who is listed as an architect in Houston.
The mother of three was radicalized after the 9/11 terror attacks, divorcing her husband and moving back to Pakistan, where she remarried Ammar Al-Baluchi, the nephew of 9/11 architect Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.
What happened in Pakistan before her arrest is unclear and even during her U.S. trial judge Richard Berman said he did not know what she was doing.
But even now such is her importance as a symbol of defiance to the West that Islamic State fighters publicly stated they wanted to swap her for James Foley, the American photojournalist they executed earlier this year.
Siddiqui declined to be interviewed when approached by the Boston Globe at the Federal Prison in Fort Worth, Texas, where she is being held.
She is serving an 86-year sentence at the Federal Medical Center, Carswell in Fort Worth, about 25 miles from the hostage site at the Texas temple.
During her trial, Aafia demanded that every jury member get DNA tested to see if they were Jewish.
‘I have a feeling everyone here is them [Jews], subject [them] to genetic testing… They should be excluded if you want to be fair,’ she told a federal judge in 2010.
A Colleyville spokesperson told CNN: ‘The FBI negotiators are the ones who have contact with the person in the building.’
Leaders from the Islamic Center of Southlake, who have worked closely with Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker to help unite the faithful in the Dallas-Fort Worth area came out to the scene to denounce the attack and pray for their friend.
‘We want to see him again as soon as possible,’ said Shahzad Mahmud, the former president of the Islamic Center.
‘We just want to make sure he goes back to his family,’
The Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is also ‘closely monitoring’ the situation.
He wrote on Twitter: ‘I am closely monitoring the hostage situation taking place in Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas.
‘We pray for the safety of the hostage and rescuers.’
US Press Secretary Jen Psaki wrote on Twitter that President Joe Biden has also been briefed on the situation.
‘He will continue to receive updates from his senior team as the situation develops.
‘Senior members of the national security team are also in touch with federal law enforcement leadership,’ Psaki wrote.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbot said that he is providing the state’s full assistance to Colleyville to help ensure all the hostages are released safely.
In an update, Mr Abbot said: ‘Prayers answered. All hostages are out alive and safe.’
Social media users have been offering prayers for Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, but his condition and location are unknown.
Congregation Beth Israel is a Reform Jewish synagogue in the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area, which has about 70,000 Jewish people, one of the largest communities in the state.
The Muslim man can be heard saying the live stream (pictured) that he was ‘going to die’ repeatedly. It is unclear who he was saying this too
Members of the Islamic Center of Southlake came out to show support for their friend, Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, who they have worked with for years to help unite the faithful in the Dallas-Fort Worth area
Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, pictured with wife Adena Cytron-Walker, was described as a staple of the community
Local police are assisting in evacuations of local residents
Emergency vehicles are stationed throughout the area. There have yet to be any reported injuries
The Israeli Prime Minister is also monitoring the situation.
President Biden has been briefed on the situation and will received updates as they come in
Armored vehicles have been seen in the area
Emergency response vehicles are currently on site as well, as the four hostages are still inside
The standoff has gone on for six hours and SWAT teams are on site as the FBI negotiates with the suspect
The four hostages are being held inside the synagogue (pictured in 2020)