Texas synagogue hostages freed after 11-hour standoff

After an 11-hour standoff, an FBI Hostage Rescue Team stormed a synagogue in Texas to free three remaining hostages held by a gunman who had entered the synagogue during the Shabbat morning service.

The gunman was identified by the FBI as Malik Faisal Akram, a 44-year-old British citizen.

Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, the spiritual leader of Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas, and three others had been held at gunpoint since earlier in the day when the armed man entered the sanctuary and threatened to kill everyone.

The service was being live-streamed on Zoom and the gunman could be heard rambling about how he did not plan to leave the synagogue alive. “If anyone tries to enter this building, I’m telling you… everyone will die,” he was heard saying. “I’m going to die. Don’t cry about me,” the man repeated over and over.

One hostage was released unharmed six hours later. The hostage-taker was pronounced dead after security forces stormed the synagogue.

The gunman demanded the release of Pakistani Al-Qaeda-affiliated Aafia Siddiqui, who is serving an 86-year prison sentence for multiple felonies, including trying to kill US Army officers. The Texas Department of Public Safety said the suspect “claims he and his sister will be going to Jannah” after they meet with one another.

He also threatened that he had bombs placed at the scene and surrounding the synagogue, but this was not confirmed by law enforcement. Police nevertheless cleared the periphery, not letting anyone within a quarter-mile radius of the synagogue.
A White House official said that they were monitoring the situation and President Joe Biden and senior members of national security teams were receiving regular updates.
The synagogue had been live-streaming its Shabbat services in an effort to prevent crowding amid the coronavirus pandemic. The stream continued for several minutes during which the gunman could be heard speaking before it was cut off.
The Beth Israel congregation was officially established on July 18, 1999, with 25 member families and affiliation with the Union of Reform Judaism. Services were held in a rented church facility on Industrial Blvd. in Colleyville, and the religious school opened under the direction of Sue Feingold with 75 children enrolled.

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