Extra police have been deployed around New York City as a precaution after a rabbi held hostage at a Texas synagogue placed a phone call to a rabbi in the city to relay the suspect's demands, three senior law enforcement officials tell News 4.
The hostage taker is demanding the release his "sister," Aaifa Siddiqui, who is being held in a federal prison in Forth Worth, Texas. Federal officials have not been able to confirm the relationship between the hostage taker and Siddiqui, but are actively investigating whether they are siblings.
Siddiqui, 49, was convicted by a federal jury in 2010 of attempting to kill U.S. officers in Afghanistan.
A rabbi in New York City received a phone call from one of the hostages Saturday after multiple people in the Colleyville, Texas, synagogue were taken hostage. The rabbi reportedly relayed the suspect's demand to set Siddiqui free, prompting the rabbi in the city to contact local police.
The NYPD has deployed extra police to synagogues around the city as a precaution, including to the synagogue where the rabbi received the call, out of an abundance of caution. The officials said there was no known additional threat Saturday evening.
"The NYPD Intelligence Bureau and the Joint Terrorism Task Force are in close contact with local police and FBI officials in Texas," a statement from Mayor Eric Adams said. "I have been fully briefed by Police Commissioner Sewell and I’m confident we are taking the right steps."
Texas authorities and SWAT responded to the Congregation Beth Israel located in Colleyville around 12:30 p.m. local time after receiving reports of an ongoing hostage situation.
White House Press Secretary Jen Paski said President Joe Biden has been briefed on the situation.
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According to the Justice Department, in July 2008 Siddiqui “was detained by Afghan authorities, who found a number of items in her possession, including handwritten notes that referred to a 'mass casualty attack' and that listed various locations in the United States, including Plum Island, the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, Wall Street, and the Brooklyn Bridge.”
They say that Siddiqui was being interviewed in Ghazni, Afghanistan when she "grabbed a U.S. Army officer's M-4 rifle and fired it at another U.S. Army officer and other members of the U.S. interview team.” The U.S. Army officer and a FBI agent were injured in the incident.
Siddiqui was brought to New York in 2008 where she was put on trial and ultimately sentenced to 86 years in prison.
At trial, jurors concluded that Siddiqui said that she intended to kill Americans during the shooting incident.