Who Was the Colleyville Synagogue Hostage Taker? What We Know So Far

The suspected hostage-taker killed in a shooting after an hourslong standoff at a Texas synagogue was British, U.K. authorities have confirmed to Newsweek.

A gunman took four people hostage at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville on Saturday morning, and was heard ranting on a livestream of the synagogue's service. He appeared to have a British accent.

One of the synagogue's congregation who was watching the Facebook livestream as the situation unfolded, has told how the hostage-taker said he had flown 5,000 miles into the Dallas-Fort Worth airport.

A spokesperson for the U.K. Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office confirmed to Newsweek early Sunday that the man was a British national.

"We are aware of the death of a British man in Texas and are in contact with the local authorities," the spokesperson said.

At a news conference on Saturday night, authorities said the hostage-taker was killed in a shooting but did not answer questions about who shot the man.

FBI Special Agent in Charge Matt DeSarno said an independent team would investigate the shooting.

DeSarno added that the suspect had been identified "but we are not prepared to release his identity or confirm his identity at this time."

He added that all four hostages were unharmed. One was released during the standoff, and three others got out about 9 p.m. local time (10 p.m. ET) after an FBI SWAT team entered the building.

DeSarno also said there was no immediate indication that there was any ongoing threat, but added that the bureau's investigation "will have global reach."

He said agents have been in contact with several overseas FBI offices, including in Tel Aviv and London.

"We do believe from our engagement with this subject that he was singularly focused on one issue and it was not specifically related to the Jewish community."

Meanwhile, President Joe Biden issued a statement, promising to "stand against anti-Semitism and against the rise of extremism in this country."

"There is more we will learn in the days ahead about the motivations of the hostage taker," Biden added.

A Colleyville Police vehicle in the street.
A Colleyville Police vehicle parked in Good Shepherd Catholic Community church on January 15, 2022 in Colleyville, Texas. British authorities have confirmed to Newsweek that the suspect shot at the scene was a U.K. citizen. Emil Lippe/Getty Images

Law enforcement sources confirmed to ABC News that the suspect was demanding the release of Aafia Siddiqui, who is incarcerated at Carswell Air Force Base near Fort Worth.

Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist suspected of having ties to al-Qaida, was convicted of trying to kill U.S. Army officers in Afghanistan in 2010. She was sentenced to 86 years in prison.

Multiple people reportedly heard the hostage-taker refer to Siddiqui as "sister" on the livestream before it was taken down.

But Siddiqui's brother, Mohammad Siddiqui, was not involved, John Floyd, board chair for the Houston chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, has confirmed.

"This assailant has nothing to do with Dr. Aafia, her family, or the global campaign to get justice for Dr. Aafia. We want the assailant to know that his actions are wicked and directly undermine those of us who are seeking justice for Dr. Aafia," Floyd, who is also Mohammad Siddiqui's legal counsel, said in a statement.

"We have confirmed that the family member being wrongly accused of this heinous act is not near the DFW Metro area."

Meanwhile, a member of the synagogue's congregation who was watching the Facebook livestream as the situation unfolded, said the hostage-taker said he had flown 5,000 miles into the Dallas-Fort Worth airport prior to taking people captive at the synagogue.

The man said he had chosen the synagogue because it was closest to the airport, Stacey Silverman told CNN. Silverman said the man was spouting "hateful rhetoric."

"He blames the Jews, you know, for everything that's going on in the world and just hateful, hateful language," she said.

"He said he had a gun. He said he had a bomb. He said, you know, he wouldn't let people go until his sister was released from this prison... He was adamant, and then he would vacillate and say, he is not a bad person. He doesn't want to hurt anyone, but his sister is not a terrorist."

An armored truck is parked in Colleyville
An armored truck is parked in the parking lot of Colleyville Middle School on January 15, 2022 in Colleyville, Texas. Emil Lippe/Getty Images

Victoria Francis, a Texas resident who watched about an hour of the livestream before it cut out, told the Associated Press that she said she heard the man rant against America and claim he had a bomb.

"He was just all over the map," Francis said. "He was pretty irritated and the more irritated he got, he'd make more threats, like 'I'm the guy with the bomb. If you make a mistake, this is all on you.' And he'd laugh at that. He was clearly in extreme distress."