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Texas: Hostages in synagogue rescued safely, hostage taker, who demanded to free ‘lady al-Qaida’ Aafia Siddiqui of Pakistan origin, dead

On different occasions, the Taliban and Islamic State had sought Aafia Siddiqui's release in exchange for American and European hostages.

A rabbi and several worshippers were held hostage by a man at Congregation Beth Israel synagogue in Colleyville, Texas. Reports suggested he had demanded to release Aafia Siddiqui from the federal prison. The FBI negotiators were called to control the situation. The Police were informed about the situation at around 10:41 AM (local time). As reported by local media Star Telegram, the hostage taker is now dead.

49-year-old Siddiqui, also known as lady al-Qaida, is currently lodged in a prison FMC Carswell in Fort Worth, Texas, for an attempted assassination of US officers in Afghanistan. She was convicted in 2010. The prison where Siddiqui is being held is only 15 miles away from the synagogue.

Jen Psaki, Spokesperson, White House, said, “The President has been briefed about the developing hostage situation in the Dallas area. He will continue to receive updates from his senior team as the situation develops. Senior members of the national security team are also in touch with federal law enforcement leadership.”

Naftali Bennett, Prime Minister, Israel, said he was closely monitoring the situation. He said, “I am closely monitoring the hostage situation taking place in Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas. We pray for the safety of the hostages and rescuers.”

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has confirmed that all hostages are rescued and free.

“Prayers answered. All hostages are out alive and safe,” he tweeted.

Initial audio captured during morning Shabbat service

The initial audio of the incident was captured during the morning Shabbat service that was being live-streamed by the synagogue on Facebook. In the audio, the man was heard shouting angrily. At the time of the incident, there were at least four hostages, including the rabbi at the time of the incident.

One hostage released

At around 5 PM (local time), one male hostage was released. The FBI crisis negotiators were still communicating with the hostage-taker. The released hostage was reportedly unharmed.

Katie Chaumont, an FBI spokesperson, said the nearby residents around the synagogue had been evacuated. There was no information from the FBI if the man was armed or not.

The arrest of Aafia Siddiqui

In 2008, Aafia Siddiqui, who hails from Pakistan, was detained by Afghan authorities. According to the Department of Justice, they had found a number of items in her possession, including handwritten notes that mentioned a mass-casualty attack. There was a list of various locations such as Plum Island, the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, Wall Street, and the Brooklyn Bridge in the US, including in the items.

According to DoJ, she was being held in an unsecured manner when she grabbed a rifle from a US Army personnel and fired it at the officers interviewing her. An FBI agent and a US Army officer were injured. She was convicted in 2010 and currently serving an 86-year prison sentence. Her supporters from Pakistan believe she is innocent and a victim of the American war on terror.

On different occasions, the Taliban and Islamic State had sought her release in exchange for American and European hostages. One of the notable trade offers was of journalist James Foley who was captured in Syria and later beheaded in August 2014. In July 2014, ISIS offered the release of Kayla Mueller, a 22-year-old woman who was abducted in Syria, in exchange of Siddiqui.

Siddiqui did her graduation and PhD from the US in behavioural neuroscience. Reports suggest she worked as a courier for Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, who was the main accused of the 9/11 attacks. After 9/11, Siddiqui had returned to Pakistan with her first husband and children. When she tried to help Taliban terrorists near the Pakistan-Afghan border, her husband disapproved, leading to their divorce in 2002.

Pakistan has also come forward in her support. In September 2021, Hafiz Muhammad Tahir Mehmood Ashrafi, special Aide to Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Interreligious Harmony and the Middle East, had sought early release of Siddiqui on the pretext of an alleged attack on her in prison. Pakistan’s ambassador to the US, Masood Khan had also extended support for Siddiqui.

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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