Colleyville: Police negotiators in the American state of Texas are trying to talk down a man who stormed into the local Congregation Beth Israel synagogue and took several hostages to demand the release of a Pakistani terrorist Aafia Siddiqui who is currently serving a jail term of 86 years.
FBI negotiators are on the scene according to ABC News. One hostage was released unharmed at around 5 PM local time with an unspecified number of people still trapped inside the synagogue. SWAT and medical teams are also on the scene.
The situation was captured on the live feed of the worship session on Saturday, as the man burst into the building and, claiming to be armed, took the rabbi and several others hostage. He can be heard speaking in Arabic and demanding that "his sister" Aafia be put on the phone, also referring to her lawyer.
"Something is wrong with America," the hostage-taker was quoted as saying by media.
US President Joe Biden has been briefed "on the developing hostage situation," White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Twitter. FBI agents were also on the scene, according to an AFP journalist. Also present were Colleyville fire and rescue trucks, Dallas police and police from the nearby city of Southlake.
Aafia Siddiqui, also known as "Lady Qaeda", is a former Pakistani scientist, in 2010 sentenced by a New York court to 86 years in prison for attempted murder of US officers in Afghanistan. The high-profile case sparked outrage in Pakistan. She is currently being held at Federal Medical Center (FMC) prison in Fort Worth, Texas.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Israel was "closely monitoring" the hostage situation. Israel's Foreign Minister Yair Lapid tweeted that the Israeli consul in Houston was on her way to the scene.
"We pray for the safety of the hostages and rescuers," Bennet wrote on Twitter.
The Council of Islamic-American Relations has also condemned the attack and has reached out to Colleyville security forces in order to offer any assistance possible.
Victoria Francis told the Associated Press that she heard the man rant against America and claim he had a bomb during the live stream. "It's a scary situation. I'm hopeful it ends the best way it can," she said.