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All hostages are safe after a more than 10-hour standoff at a Texas synagogue

SACHA PFEIFFER, HOST:

The tense hostage situation that began yesterday at a synagogue in Colleyville, Texas, just outside Dallas, has ended. All of the hostages are now free, and officials say the man who held them is now dead. Reporter Bill Zeeble of member station KERA in Dallas has been following the story and joins us now. Good morning, Bill.

BILL ZEEBLE, BYLINE: Good morning.

PFEIFFER: Would you first remind us how this hostage situation developed yesterday, and then tell us how it ended.

ZEEBLE: Yesterday morning during Saturday services at the Synagogue Beth Israel, the man entered. And those attending online could see something was happening and hear it online because it was live streamed. Police were called. They realized when they showed up that there was an emergency underway, and they locked down the synagogue. They evacuated the surrounding area. And almost immediately, they began negotiating because this man had hostages. They talked with him for hours. This thing lasted 10, 11 hours yesterday. And then by 5 p.m., one man was released unharmed. Then a few hours later, by 9 or so, officials forced their way in to Beth Israel and rescued the other three. All were safe - all are safe. And the FBI, who says the man - the unidentified man was deceased.

PFEIFFER: I understand this may have been a challenging situation for the Colleyville police chief because he told reporters that one of the hostages, the rabbi of Beth Israel, is a friend of his. Tell us about that.

ZEEBLE: Well, Colleyville Police Chief Mike Miller talked about that and other events at a 10 o'clock press conference last night. And here's what he said.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MIKE MILLER: Colleyville is one of the safest cities in Texas, and this is something that you don't ever expect to have in your own city. The rabbi is a personal friend of mine. It's extremely personal, but what we saw was a crisis here. But there's lots of hope.

ZEEBLE: And he said there was lots of hope because of the way people locally and across the country had reached out. They helped with food, with shelter, with any assistance they could provide. So he was impressed.

PFEIFFER: Do we know why the hostages were taken in the first place?

ZEEBLE: Well, the AP reported yesterday that this man wanted the release of Aafia Siddiqui. She's a Pakistani neuroscientist suspected of having ties to al-Qaida. She was convicted of trying to kill U.S. military officers in custody while in Afghanistan. And this man wanted to speak with her. He wanted her release. He also wanted to speak with her in a federal Texas prison. That may be why this all happened in Texas.

PFEIFFER: And what do we know about that man, the hostage taker?

ZEEBLE: Officials say they know who the man is - was. They aren't releasing his identity, his name, any information. The U.K. Foreign Office tells Reuters that it's aware of the death of a British man in Texas. So that's about what we know. The FBI, again, isn't releasing any information. They say the - this investigation is ongoing, and they also said that although this looks like it might have been anti-Semitic in nature, they're saying this man's actions weren't related to the Jewish community. Jews here may not feel so at ease.

PFEIFFER: And as you said there, you're saying that the U.K. Foreign Office tells Reuters they're aware of the death of a British man in Texas, so it appears that the hostage taker may have been British.

ZEEBLE: Yeah, that's where we can speculate, connect the dots. But there's no more information than that yet so far.

PFEIFFER: That's reporter Bill Zeeble of member station KERA in Dallas. Bill, thank you.

ZEEBLE: Good talking to you.

PFEIFFER: You, too. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.