New Delhi: An 11-hour hostage situation at a US synagogue in Texas’s Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area came to an end Saturday night after a Federal Bureau of Investigation team rescued all the hostages and the lone suspected gunman was pronounced dead at the scene after “a large bang” and gunfire were heard, according to a report from CNN.
FBI Dallas Special Agent in Charge Matthew DeSarno said the gunman had been identified but not yet been publicly named as the investigation into the incident continues, CNN added.
However, prior to the apparent gunfire and his death, the gunman had reportedly demanded the release of Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist with suspected links to al-Qaeda who is jailed in Fort Worth. However, Siddiqui’s lawyer Marwa Elbially said that her client does “not condone the gunman’s actions”, according to NBC News.
“She’s always said, and I’m sure maintains, she does not support it — she does not support violence,” NBC News quoted Elbially as saying.
Siddiqui was originally arrested for attempted murder of US military officers in Afghanistan in 2008 and has been serving an 86-year sentence in a federal prison.
Negotiations streamed live, gunman asked for ‘sister’s’ release
The incident at Colleyville’s Congregation Beth Israel began earlier Saturday morning during a Shabbat service that was being streamed live on social media. Local police said they had first responded to emergency calls about the incident at 10.41 am local time and arrived on the scene by 12.30 pm, The Guardian reported.
According to local news source Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the livestream captured audio portions of what sounded like the gunman’s negotiations with police, before it was taken down at 2 pm local time.
“The man has repeatedly mentioned his sister and Islam and used profanities. He was heard asking for his sister to be released from prison. At one point, another voice can be heard apparently talking on the phone to police. The man has said a few times he didn’t want anyone hurt, and he has mentioned his children,” the Star-Telegram added.
Citing anonymous law enforcement sources, ABC News had initially reported Saturday night that the gunman had claimed to be Siddiqui’s brother. However, the report was amended after the brother’s lawyer, John Floyd, said his client was currently in Houston, not the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
“While authorities would also not confirm the demands made by the hostage-taker, multiple law enforcement sources told ABC News he was demanding the release of convicted terrorist Aafia Siddiqui. DeSarno said the hostage negotiation team was in contact with the suspect throughout the day,” ABC News added.
Video captured around 9.15 pm by a photojournalist for Dallas-based, ABC-affiliated local news channel WFAA showed the hostages escaping the synagogue after the FBI’s breach, while the gunman is briefly seen before receding into the synagogue as FBI agents surround the premises. The apparent “bang” and subsequent blasts can also be heard in this video.
With the investigation ongoing, details of the gunman’s identity and whether he has any actual connection to the Siddiqui case remain unconfirmed.
(Edited by Rohan Manoj)