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FBI has contacted law enforcement in 'Tel Aviv and London'

UK government confirms Texas synagogue attacker was a British citizen

In first public comments, synagogue Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker expresses gratitude for ‘all of the vigils and prayers and love and support,’ as well as to law enforcement officers

A police vehicle patrols an intersection on January 15, 2022, in Colleyville, Texas, near Congregation Beth Israel. (Brandon Bell/Getty Images via AFP)
A police vehicle patrols an intersection on January 15, 2022, in Colleyville, Texas, near Congregation Beth Israel. (Brandon Bell/Getty Images via AFP)

A spokesperson for the UK Foreign Office confirmed on Sunday that the man who took congregants hostage inside a Texas synagogue a day earlier was a UK citizen.

The spokesperson said that UK government officials were “aware of the death of a British man in Texas and are in contact with the local authorities.”

The attacker, who has not been publicly named, died in the rescue operation. It is still unclear if he was killed by law enforcement officials or died by suicide.

All four hostages were ultimately freed unharmed after a 10-hour standoff at Congregation Beth Israel in the city of Colleyville that began Saturday morning.

Matthew DeSarno, the special agent in charge of FBI Dallas, told reporters at a press conference on Saturday evening that the agency’s investigation “will have global reach.”

DeSarno also said that the FBI had already been in contact with global law enforcement officials “to include Tel Aviv and London.” He noted on Saturday that law enforcement had determined the identity of the hostage-taker but was not prepared to divulge it at this time.

FBI Special Agent In Charge Matthew DeSarno speaks at a news conference near the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue on January 15, 2022 in Colleyville, Texas. (Brandon Bell/Getty Images via AFP)

The attacker entered the Texas synagogue on Saturday morning and took four worshipers hostage, including the community’s rabbi, Charlie Cytron-Walker. One hostage was released unharmed on Saturday afternoon, and the remaining three, including the rabbi, were freed by the end of the night.

In a Facebook post early Sunday morning, Cytron-Walker expressed gratitude for those who had ensured the hostages’ safety.

“I am thankful and filled with appreciation for all of the vigils and prayers and love and support, all of the law enforcement and first responders who cared for us, all of the security training that helped save us,” he wrote. “I am grateful for my family. I am grateful for the CBI Community, the Jewish Community, the Human Community. I am grateful that we made it out. I am grateful to be alive.”

As the 10-hour standoff stretched on, members of the congregation who were not in attendance heaped public praise on Cytron-Walker.

More than 200 law enforcement officers were involved in the hostage situation throughout the day, including an FBI hostage rescue team flown in from Virginia.

A livestream of the synagogue’s Shabbat morning services devolved into a live viewing of a hostage situation for several hours, until Facebook intervened to take the feed down.

Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, who was held hostage inside Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas, January 15, 2022. (JTA)

The gunman “was singularly focused on one issue, and it was not specifically related to the Jewish community,” DeSarno, the FBI agenct, told reporters at the scene, without elaborating.

The hostage-taker could be heard on the livestream referencing Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani national known as the “Lady al-Qaeda.” Siddiqui was convicted in 2010 by a New York City federal court of attempting to kill US military personnel. She is currently serving an 86-year sentence at Carswell Air Force Base near Fort Worth, Texas, some 15 miles southwest of Colleyville.

ABC, citing a source at the scene, said the hostage-taker was demanding Siddiqui’s release.

Siddiqui had a history of antisemitism and blamed Israel for her imprisonment. A US court convicted her of trying to kill American service members in 2010. After her conviction, she said, “This is a verdict coming from Israel and not from America. That’s where the anger belongs.”

During her trial, she told her judge she didn’t want Jews in the jury “if they have a Zionist or Israeli background,” adding: “I have a feeling everyone here is them, subject to genetic testing.”

Congregation Beth Israel was established in 1999 and counts roughly 140 families as members.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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