COLLEYVILLE, Texas - As an intense situation in Colleyville, Texas unfolds where at least four people were taken hostage at a synagogue, Houston-area leaders are holding steady, offering thoughts and prayers.
Colleyville police arrived on scene just before 10:45 a.m. for a SWAT operation in the 6100 block of Pleasant Run Road and evacuated those in the area.
Authorities are still investigating the motive for the attack. The services were being live-streamed, and one of the law enforcement officials said the hostage-taker was heard demanding the release of Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist suspected of having ties to al-Qaeda, who was convicted of trying to kill U.S. military officers while in custody in Afghanistan. Siddiqui is in federal prison in Texas.
News of the hostage situation prompted several Texas leaders to issue messages of solidarity, hoping everything resolves peacefully. A little after 6:15 p.m., one of the male hostages was released, uninjured. Negotiations continued for the other hostages, and just after 9 p.m., an FBI rescue team entered the synagogue and rescued the three other hostages. We're told the hostage-taker died as a result.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner for example, offered his thoughts and prayers for a positive outcome.
Law enforcement officials said investigators have not positively identified the man and cautioned that the information was based on a preliminary investigation, as the situation was still rapidly developing. Initially, it was believed the gunman had ties to Houston.
However, that claim was refuted by his attorney as well as John Floyd with the Council on American–Islamic Relations (CAIR) - Houston, who issued the following statement:
"We strongly condemn the hostage-taking at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas. This antisemitic attack against a house of worship is unacceptable. We stand in solidarity with the Jewish community, and we pray that law enforcement authorities are able to swiftly free the hostages and bring them to safety. 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. We want the hostage-taker to know that Dr. Aafia Siddiqui and her family strongly condemn this act and do not stand by you. Dr. Aafia’s family has always stood firm in advocating for the release of their sister from incarceration by legal and non-violent means only.
"This assailant has nothing to do with Dr. Aafia, her family, or the global campaign to get justice for Dr. Aafia. We want the assailant to know that his actions are wicked and directly undermine those of us who are seeking justice for Dr. Aafia. On behalf of the family and Dr. Aafia, we call on you to immediately release the hostages and turn yourself in. The CAIR-Houston office has represented Dr. Aafia’s brother since 2004. We have confirmed that the family member being wrongly accused of this heinous act is not near the DFW Metro area. We call on the reporters that claimed this man to be a member of Dr. Aafia’s family to correct their reports and issue an apology to the Siddiqui family."
As of Saturday evening, there does not appear to be any credible threats in the Houston area, but the Houston Police Department said it is increasing visibility at various synagogues as a precaution and encouraging residents to call if they see anything suspicious.
Harris Co. Pct. 1 Constable Alan Rosen also said his officers will be standing by but is also "praying for resolve and a positive outcome." Harris Co. Sheriff Ed Gonzalez
Harris Co. Sheriff Ed Gonzalez also said they have increased patrols around synagogues and places of worship in the Houston area.
Rabbi David Lyons with Congregation Beth Israel in Houston issued a statement of solidarity as well Saturday evening and commended local law enforcement for their support.
"In Houston at Congregation Beth Israel, we are constantly informed by local HPD, FBI, ADL, and other sources. Every day on our campus, there are HPD officers who monitor our entry doors with cameras that surround our building on the outside and throughout our public hallways on the inside. On Shabbat, it's common for an HPD officer to enter the sanctuary or chapel to view the room from the back. It's a comfort to the rabbis to see one of our prepared officers take his or her place to support us. This Shabbat weekend was another example of how our team works together to ensure the safety and confidence of our clergy, congregants, and visitors.
"Now please keep those in Colleyville in your prayers that they may know a peaceful outcome after this terrible event, and that they may recover their confidence to gather again in prayer and friendship."