A gunman has taken a rabbi and three others hostage at a synagogue in Colleyville, TX on January 15.
The hostage situation started toward the end of Shabbat services at Congregation Beth Israel; the suspect is reportedly calling for sister, Aafia Siddiqui, to be released from prison. Authorities have yet to confirm that the suspect is in fact Siddiqui’s brother, Muhammad Siddiqui; Muhammad Siddiqui’s lawyer is claiming that he is not the gunman. Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist, was sentenced to 86 years in prison in 2010 for attempting to kill United States soldiers and FBI agents in Afghanistan. She is currently serving her sentence at Federal Medical Center Carswell prison in Fort Worth. The gunman reportedly said during a live stream of the services he is “going to die doing this” and that the hostages are “going to die.”
As of this writing, no one has been injured inside the synagogue. SWAT and the FBI are at the scene and the White House is monitoring the situation. The situation is ongoing.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett also tweeted that he is monitoring the situation. “We pray for the safety of the hostages and rescuers,” he wrote.
Various Jewish groups voiced their prayers for the hostages and called for a peaceful resolution.
Stop Antisemitism Executive Director Liora Rez said in a statement, “When Jews tell you antisemitism is a problem, listen to us. Antisemitism doesn’t just come from the white neo-Nazi movement – it comes from many sources like we see unfolding today in Colleyville, Texas. It’s critical not to turn a blind eye to any of it as the consequences can be catastrophic. “Our thoughts are with all the hostages and their families, along with the first responders, as they try to navigate this terrifying situation.”
American Jewish Committee Managing Director of Public Affairs Avi Mayer tweeted that the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) “is increasing patrols around LA synagogues ‘as a precautionary measure’ in light of the situation in Texas.”
The rabbi, Charlie Cytron-Walker, has been the rabbi of the congregation since 2006 and was previously the president of the South West Association of Reform Rabbis, according to the synagogue’s website. He also previously worked for Focus: HOPE, a Detroit-based organization focusing on ending racism and poverty, and Amherst Survival Center, a Massachusetts-based organization providing food for the needy. Cytron-Walker is the first full-time rabbi at the synagogue and Congregation Beth Israel is a reform synagogue that was first established in 1998.
A 2014 Foreign Policy article stated that Siddiqui is known as “Lady Al Qaeda” over her alleged ties to the terror group. According to Jewish News Syndicate, Siddiqui was initially arrested by Afghan police in 2008 for carrying sodium cyanide and a flash drive filled with instructions on how to build Weapons of Mass Destruction. While detained, Siddiqui allegedly grabbed a rifle on the floor and fired it at U.S. military personnel. Siddiqui has denied the allegations and over the years various activists have called for her freedom, including the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). CAIR did condemn the ongoing hostage situation.