(Reuters) -Authorities are negotiating with a man who has reportedly taken people hostage at a synagogue in Colleyville, Texas, during services on Saturday that were being streamed live, according to media reports.
Agents from the FBI were negotiating with the gunman, CNN reported. The FBI did not immediately respond to questions from Reuters.
The Colleyville Police Department posted on Twitter earlier on Saturday that it was conducting SWAT operations on the block where Congregation Beth Israel is located and said that all residents in the immediate area were being evacuated.
No injuries have been reported inside the building in the Dallas-Fort Worth suburb, according to a report in the Dallas Morning News.
“Colleyville Police Sgt. Dara Nelson said negotiators have made contact with somebody inside the synagogue who they believe is a suspect,” the Dallas Morning News said.
The man could be heard having a one-sided conversation in what appeared to be a phone call during a livestream of the Reform Jewish synagogue’s Shabbat service. The livestream cut off around 3 p.m. EST (2000 GMT).
Before the Facebook livestream was ended, a man could be heard ranting and talking about religion and his sister, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported. The man could be heard repeatedly saying he didn’t want to see anyone hurt and that he believes he is going to die, the newspaper said.
Barry Klompus, 63, a member of the congregation since it opened in 1999, said he was alerted to the situation by another member and quickly turned to the live feed until it was cut off.
“It was horrible listening and watching, and it’s that much more horrible not knowing,” Klompus said in a telephone interview.
Though he was not able to clearly understand what the man wanted, Klompus believes the man wanted to talk to his sister.
A U.S. official briefed on the matter told ABC News the hostage-taker is claiming to be the brother of Pakistani neuroscientist Aafia Siddiqui, who is serving an 86-year U.S. prison sentence after her 2010 conviction of shooting at soldiers and FBI agents, and demanding she be freed.
But authorities have not yet confirmed his identity, the official told ABC News.
Siddiqui is being held at a federal prison in the Fort Worth area.
The president of the Union for Reform Judaism, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, said on Twitter the union was “very grateful to law enforcement who are working to free the hostages.”
“We deeply appreciate the outpouring of love and support for our congregation in Colleyville, Texas,” he said.
Klompus said he did not know of any significant previous threats to the congregation.
“We don’t have a security officer on staff but we have what I would say is a very good relationship with the local police,” he said.
(Reporting by Aram Roston, Daphne Psaledakis, Jonathan Allen and Valerie Volcovici; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)
Date: 01/15/2022 16:59
Word Count: 462
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