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All hostages released from Texas synagogue and are safe, police say

Click to play video: 'Texas Synagogue standoff: Hostages released and safe, hostage-taker dead, police say' Texas Synagogue standoff: Hostages released and safe, hostage-taker dead, police say
WATCH: Texas Synagogue standoff: Hostages released and safe, hostage-taker dead, police say – Jan 16, 2022

Update: On Sunday morning, The Associated Press reported that the hostage-taker has been killed. FBI Special Agent in Charge Matt DeSarno said a team would investigate “the shooting incident.” But FBI and police spokeswomen declined to answer questions about who shot the man. 

A hostage situation at a Texas synagogue came to an end Saturday evening, police said, after an over 11-hour tense standoff.

Colleyville police said just before 10 p.m. that all four of the hostages are now safe.

Texas governor Gregg Abbott confirmed the news as well with the message: “Prayers answered.”

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FBI, SWAT respond to hostage situation at Texas synagogue – Jan 15, 2022

The situation was still active around 9 p.m, according to Colleyville police, with FBI and a SWAT team on the scene.

The release of all the hostages comes after one was released shortly after 5:00 p.m. with no injuries and no need for medical attention, police said.

Whether any injuries were sustained by the other hostages and the status of the hostage-taker is currently unknown.

Authorities said they were called to the scene at Congregation Beth Israel at around 10:41 a.m. and found an “emergency situation” that called for the evacuation of the area and a perimeter established.

An officer who spoke to The Associated Press anonymously said the hostage-taker, who has not been identified, was heard demanding the release of Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist currently serving an 86-year sentence in a Texas prison.

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Siddiqui was convicted for attempting to kill U.S. guards while in custody in Afghanistan by lunging for their weapon and firing shots that missed. She was arrested in 2008 after being listed on the FBI’s Most Wanted List.

Her sentence sparked outrage in Pakistan, where political leaders and her supporters feel she was the victim of America’s justice system.

She allegedly has links to al-Qaeda and has previously been the centre of at least three other high-profile American hostage-takings.

Read more: Why is Aafia Siddiqui a terrorist bargaining chip?

FBI Dallas spokeswoman Katie Chaumont told AP on Saturday that she could not say whether the hostage-taker in Texas was armed.

“It’s an evolving situation, and we have a lot of law enforcement personnel on scene,” she said.

In response to the situation, Toronto police said that patrols were being increased around religious sites “out of an abundance of caution.”

Before the hostage-taking, Shabbat services at the synagogue were being live-streamed on Facebook and caught an angry man ranting, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

The newspaper reported that the man was talking about religion at times, using profanities and said that he thought he was going to die and didn’t want to see anyone hurt.

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The feed cut around 2:00 p.m. and a Meta spokesperson has confirmed that Facebook has removed the video.

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Anti-Semitic incidents on the rise, 3 years since synagogue massacre in U.S – Oct 27, 2021

Texas resident Victoria Francis caught the stream before it ended, however, and told The Associated Press the man was ranting against America and claimed he had a bomb.

“He was just all over the map. He was pretty irritated and the more irritated he got, he’d make more threats, like ‘I’m the guy with the bomb. If you make a mistake, this is all on you.’ And he’d laugh at that,” she said.

“He was clearly in extreme distress.”

Multiple people heard the hostage-taker refer to Siddiqui as his “sister” on the live-stream, but the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Dallas Fort-Worth Texas told AP that Siddiqui’s brother, Mohammad Siddiqui, was not involved.

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U.S. President Joe Biden has been briefed on the situation, according to the White House, and national security team members are involved.

Colleyville is a community of about 26,000 people, about 23 kilometres northeast of Fort Worth.

More to come.

— with files from Reuters, The Associated Press and Global News’ Nick Logan.

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