COLLEYVILLE, Texas (AP) — Authorities said a man apparently took hostages Saturday during worship services at a synagogue where he could be heard angrily shouting during a live broadcast before it was interrupted.
The Colleyville Police Department tweeted Saturday afternoon that it was conducting police SWAT tactical squad operations at the Congregation Beth Israel facility northeast of Fort Worth.
At least four hostages are believed to be inside the synagogue, two officials told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment on an ongoing investigation. The rabbi of the synagogue is believed to be among the hostages, one of the officers said.
Authorities continue to try to discern a precise motive for this attack. The hijacker was heard demanding the release of Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist who is believed to have ties to the al Qaeda network and was convicted of trying to kill US military officers when he was detained in Afghanistan, one of the policemen said. Siddiqui is in a federal prison in Texas.
Agents said investigators have not positively identified the subject and cautioned that the information was based on preliminary investigations because the situation was developing rapidly.
An FBI spokeswoman in Dallas, Katie Chaumont, said an FBI tactical squad was on the scene and crisis negotiation experts were talking to someone inside the synagogue. However, Chaumont declined to say whether the man was armed and what the person said to officers due to what he described as operational sensitivity.
Police were the first to show up at the synagogue around 11:00 a.m. and people were cleared out of the surroundings shortly after, he added.
No injuries have been reported, Chaumont said.
“It’s a changing situation and we have numerous agents on the ground,” he said.
On Saturday afternoon, the police blocked access to the arteries surrounding the synagogue.
The services were being broadcast live on the synagogue’s Facebook page at the time, and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported that an apparent negotiation could be heard between the alleged shooter and police. The newspaper reported that on the live broadcast an angry man could be heard ranting and talking about religion at times, but what was going on inside the synagogue could not be seen.
Shortly before 2:00 in the afternoon, the man said: “You must do something. I don’t want to see this guy dead.” Moments later, the broadcast ended.
The man, who used foul language, repeatedly mentioned his sister, Islam and that he thought he was going to die, according to the Star-Telegram.
Colleyville, a community of about 26,000 people, is located about 15 miles (23 kilometers) northeast of Fort Worth.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said he was closely monitoring the situation.
“We are praying for the safety of the hostages and those who have come to their rescue,” he wrote on Twitter.
Israel’s consul general in Houston is en route to the scene of the incident, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said in a statement. He added that Israeli authorities “maintain close communication with US law enforcement agencies.”
Associated Press writers Eric Tucker and Michael Balsamo in Washington, DC, contributed to this report.