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All hostages released safely in Texas synagogue standoff

Jan. 15 (UPI) -- All hostages held by a man at a Jewish synagogue, including reportedly a rabbi, during an hours ours-long standoff near Dallas were released unharmed, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said in a tweet late Saturday night.

"Prayers answered. All hostages are out alive and safe, Abbott tweeted at 10:33 p.m. local time.

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A male hostage was released shortly after 5 p.m., nearly six hours after the drama at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas, began, the Colleyville Police Department said in an update.

Officials were to give details about the incident and how it ended at a news conference later.

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Local and state police, the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were among the law enforcement agencies that responded to the standoff, in which negotiations were continuing with the hostage-taker.

The released man was among a group of four people who were being held at the synagogue, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott confirmed following his release. Several reports indicated the congregation's rabbi was also among the hostages.

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No injuries were reported as of Saturday evening.

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Police in the city of 26,000 located about 3 miles west of Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport said all residents in the immediate area of the synagogue were evacuated and urged people to avoid the area.

The Biden administration, Abbott and other top officials said they are closely monitoring the situation while security around high-profile Jewish sites in major U.S. cities was heightened.

White House Press Secretary Jenn Psaki said in a Twitter message President Joe Biden is keeping on top of the situation.

The Texas Department of Public Safety is "on the scene of the tense hostage situation" in Colleyville, Abbott tweeted, adding, "They are working with local and federal teams to achieve the best and safest outcome."

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett also said in a tweet he was "closely monitoring" the situation, adding, "We pray for the safety of the hostages and rescuers."

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Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson announced the city's police department is "deploying additional patrols to Dallas synagogues and other sites" and is working with Jewish Federation "to monitor any concerns or threats based on the situation in Colleyville."

In New York, Mayor Eric Adams said that "out of an abundance of caution, the NYPD has deployed additional resources to key Jewish locations around the city tonight."

The Los Angeles Police Department announced on social media it is "increasing patrols around synagogues in LA as a precautionary measure."

A video feed of Saturday's services at Congregation Beth Israel were being streamed live on Facebook before abruptly ending, The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported.

The newspaper said a man can be heard on the video angrily talking, making references about Islam and demanding that his "sister" be released from prison.

CNN and ABC News reported law enforcement sources believe the hostage-taker was motivated by a desire to secure the release of convicted terrorist Aafia Siddiqui, who is currently jailed at Carswell Air Force Base near Fort Worth, Texas.

Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist who at one time was named one of the FBI's most wanted terrorists, was sentenced to 86 years in prison in 2010 for shooting at U.S. troops while being held in an Afghanistan police station.

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Her sentencing ignited anti-American protests across Pakistan at the time.

A proposed swap of Siddiqui for jailed CIA contractor Raymond Davis was turned down by both Pakistani and American officials in 2011.

Siddiqui's family released a statement saying they are not connected or related to the suspect and condemning his actions.

"This assailant has nothing to do with Dr. Aafia, her family, or the global campaign to get justice for Dr. Aafia," they said in a statement issued to The Daily Beast. "We want the assailant to know that his actions are wicked and directly undermine those of us who are seeking justice for Dr. Aafia."

Meanwhile, expressions of concern for those being held hostage in Colleyville came in from officials and others.

The American Jewish Committee expressed "deep concerns" about the incident, while Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said he and his wife were "praying for those at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville and for the SWAT team and all other law enforcement on the scene responding."

Texas' other U.S. senator, John Cornyn, said he had been briefed by Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas and urged Americans to "pray for the hostages inside and law enforcement on the scene."

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