A gunman has taken hostages at a synagogue in Texas and is demanding the release of a convicted murderer known as ‘Lady Al-Qaeda’ from a US prison.
Police in Colleyville, on the outskirts of Fort Worth, were called to the Congregation Beth Israel at 10.41am on Saturday and were still negotiating with the hostage taker more than six hours later at 5pm.
According to reports, the gunman is demanding the release of Aafia Siddiqui, an alleged terrorist serving 86 years in a Texas prison for attempting to kill US soldiers in Afghanistan.
The Colleyville Police Department said it had confirmed there are hostages inside the synagogue but that no injuries have been reported. It said FBI crisis negotiators were still negotiating with the suspect.
The incident began while a service was being live streamed on Facebook, leading remote congregants to hear a man, likely the attacker, shouting on their feed.
In clips posted on Twitter before the original live stream was removed, a man can be heard saying: “What the f— is wrong with America? There is something f***ing wrong with this system that you are still trying to do a deal with me.”
An initial report from ABC News suggested that the suspect was called Muhammad Siddiqui and was claiming to be the brother of Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist currently serving an 86-year prison sentence in Fort Worth, Texas for attempting to murder a US soldier in Afghanistan.
However, a lawyer for Mr Siddiqui said that he had nothing to do with the attack and is currently in Houston, nearly 300 miles away on the Lone Star State’s coast. Activists campaigning for Aafia’s release condemned the attack was “wicked” and “antisemitic”.
Aafia Siddiqui’s lawyer says the attacker has ‘no relation’ to her or her family
Marwa Elbially, Aafia Siddiqui’s lawyer, has said she has no idea who the hostage taker is and that he is not known to the Siddiqui family.
“He has no relation to the family, no relation to the supporters, nothing,” Ms Elbially told The Independent. “We have no idea where this guy came from…. we don’t know who he is and why he decided to do the irrational thing he’s doing now.”
Though she has not spoken to Siddiqui since the attack began, she said her client would “condemn this and not support this in any way” and had “always maintained that no violence should be done in her name”.
Aafia Siddiqui maintains that she is innocent of attempting to murder US soldiers. Ms Elbially said she has offered her help to Texas authorities.
Io Dodds16 January 2022 02:14
Houston activist says he spoke to Muhammad Siddiqui’s lawyer
Here’s more detail from Cair Houston’s director of operations, William White, who says he spoke to Muhammad Siddiqui‘s lawyer John Floyd.
“When he heard the horrible incident that was going on he immediately contacted Mr Siddiqui and wanted to make sure that he was safe and that what he was hearing was false,” Mr White told me.
“Mr Siddiqui assured Mr Floyd that he was in fact hundreds of miles away from where the incident is taking place.”
He added: “Our thoughts and prayers are with the Colleyville community and the national Jewish community.”
I hope we’ll hear from Mr Floyd directly, but I’m told that may not happen until tomorrow.
Io Dodds16 January 2022 01:41
‘Whoever he is, he’s not Muhammad Siddiqui’
I’ve just spoken to Faizan Syed, executive director of Cair’s Dallas branch, who said his group was told by Muhammad Siddiqui‘s lawyer John Floyd that he is not the hostage taker.
“This person who’s doing this heinous crime, whoever he is, he is not Dr Aafia Siddiqui’s brother Muhammad, who is in a completely different part of the state of Texas right now,” said Mr Syed.
“Her brother is a respected member of the community, he’s an architect, and we’ve heard this information both from his attorney along with other people who know him who have called him and verified that he’s not currently in [the area].”
Mr Syed said Mr Siddiqui’s lawyer John White was currently on a plane, so hopefully we will hear more from him when he lands.
Cair is a Muslim civil rights group that has been campaigning for Aafia Siddiqui to be released from prison.
Io Dodds16 January 2022 01:27
Muhammad Siddiqui’s lawyer says he is not the attacker
A lawyer for Muhammad Siddiqui, Aafia’s brother, has said that he is not the man who took hostages in Colleyville, according to Jerusalem Post managing editor Tamar Uriel-Beeri.
ABC News has also removed any reference to Muhammad Siddiqui from its story, replacing it with an editor’s note: “This story previously said the hostage-taker claimed to be Aafia Siddiqui’s brother. Her brother’s lawyer, John Floyd, told ABC News by phone that his client is in Houston and he relayed that information to law enforcement.”
Io Dodds16 January 2022 01:01
‘Free Aafia Siddiqui’ campaign says hostage taker is not her brother
Activists campaigning for the release of Aafia Siddiqui from prison have condemned the attack in Texas and said the hostage taker is not her brother Muhammad.
In a joint statement, the Free Dr Afia campaign and the Houston branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (Cair) said Cair has represented Muhammad Siddiqui since 2004 and that he is currently nowhere near the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area.
The statement said: “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 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… on behalf of the family and Dr. Aafia, we call on you to immediately release the hostages and turn yourself in.”
Io Dodds16 January 2022 00:30
Texas officials and politicians react
Texas governor Greg Abbott has said he is monitoring the situation, as has the state’s attorney general Ken Paxton.
Dallas mayor Eric Johnson said he is sending extra police to protect synagogues in the city, working with the Jewish Federation to keep the community safe.
Meanwhile, the Lone Star State’s senators and politicians posted statements in support of the hostages and the Texas Jewish community.
“Heidi and I are praying for those at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville and for the SWAT team and all other law enforcement on the scene responding,” said Republican senator Ted Cruz (Heidi his is wife). “My staff and I are closely monitoring the situation and are in close contact with local and national authorities.”
Former Texas congressman and Democratic candidate for governor Beto O’Rourke: “Sending strength to Colleyville as another Texas community is tragically targeted by a gunman. If you’re in the area, please heed the warnings of local officials and avoid the vicinity around the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue.”
Io Dodds16 January 2022 00:03
No hostages have been injured, say police
Here’s the latest statement from Colleyville Police, who have confirmed that hostage negotiators are involved and that the situation was still ongoing at 5.08pm Texas time.
“On Saturday 15 January 2022, at approximately 10.41am, the Colleyville Police Department received a call for service in the 6100 block of Pleasant Run Roads.
“Officers arrived on the scene and observed an emergency situation that warranted evacuation of the surrounding areas, and an external perimeter was established…
“Law enforcement has confirmed that there are others inside but no injuries have been reported. FBI crisis negotiators are in communication with the subject. It remains an active operational and investigative scene.”
Io Dodds15 January 2022 23:42
Aafia Siddiqui, the ‘Lady Al-Qaeda’ who many still see as a hero
Now 49, she moved from Pakistan to the US on a student visa in 1990 to join her brother Muhammad, who was studying to be an architect in Houston, Texas.
She studied at the University of Houston and the Massachussetts Institute of Technology, where she joined a group of radical Muslim students and became an activist raising money for guerrillas in Bosnia and Kosovo.
In 2003 she was put on the FBI’s list after allegedly being named as a fundraiser for Al Qaeda by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who is now on trial for allegedly masterminding the 9/11 attacks. Having disappeared from the US’s radar, she was arrested in Afghanistan five years later, where she allegedly grabbed a US soldier’s weapon and tried to shoot her captors.
During her trial she repeatedly made antisemitic remarks, demanding that the jury be genetically tested so that Jews could be excluded and responding to her prison sentence with the cry: “This is a verdict coming from Israel, not America!”
Io Dodds15 January 2022 23:21
‘Are you gonna get my sister on the phone?’
Here’s another clip allegedly taken from the synagogue’s most recent live stream before it cut off, in which a man – probably the hostage taker – can be heard shouting.
It’s hard to hear some of his words, but he seems to be saying: “Are you gonna get my sister on the phone or not? I tell you one thing – once you get my sister, things will [inaudible]… come on, get her on.”
Those words may substantiate reports that the hostage taking suspect is the brother of convicted terrorist Aafia Siddiqui, and is demanding she be freed from prison.
Io Dodds15 January 2022 22:41
Hostage taker wants Pakistani terrorist out of prison, report claims
Police have not yet released any details of the suspect, but according to ABC News his name is Muhammad Siddiqui.
Citing a source at the scene, ABC said he claims to be the brother of Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist serving an 86-year prison sentence in Fort Worth, Texas for attempting to murder a US soldier in Afghanistan.
The source said he was armed and claiming to have bombs in unknown locations, and that he had demanded Aafia Siddiqui be set free.
Io Dodds15 January 2022 22:30