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Hostage situation at North Texas synagogue ends with all hostages safe and suspect dead, authorities say

The situation began around 11 a.m. Saturday and lasted nearly 12 hours at Congregation Beth Israel in the Dallas suburb of Colleyville.

COLLEYVILLE, Texas — After a nearly 12-hour hostage negotiation, authorities confirmed all four hostages taken at the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue in Colleyville, Texas, were alive and safe.

Law enforcement agencies responded to the situation shortly before 11 a.m. on Saturday. Around 9:33 p.m., Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Colleyville police tweeted that all hostages were "out alive and safe." 

During a news conference late Saturday, Colleyville police and the FBI confirmed the suspect was dead. It is unclear how the suspect died, as officials have not released further information. 

On Sunday, the FBI confirmed the identity of the hostage-taker as Malik Faisal Akram, a 44-year-old British citizen.

SWAT officers with the Colleyville Police Department, as well as officials with the Texas Department of Public Safety and FBI, initially responded at 10:40 a.m. to the scene in the 6100 block of Pleasant Run Road near Tinker Road and State Highway 121. 

Police soon evacuated residents near the immediate area of the scene within the Dallas suburb, located 16 miles northeast of Fort Worth.

FBI officers quickly took over the lead of the investigation and its operations.

Police said FBI crisis negotiators were in constant contact with Akram throughout the day into evening, and around 5 p.m., one male hostage was released. According to police, that man, who hasn't yet been identified, was reunited with his family. 

As the standoff dragged on into the nighttime hours, Colleyville Police Chief Michael Miller said that the FBI called in a special rescue team to help bring the situation to a close.

"The FBI called out the hostage rescue team, which is an elite hostage rescue force out of Quantico, Virginia," Miller said. "They immediately got on a plane and flew down here. I think they brought 60 or 70 people from Washington, D.C. to come and help with the situation."

The hostage rescue team then "breached the synagogue" and rescued the three remaining hostages, Miller added. Among them was believed to be the synagogue's rabbi, Charlie Cytron-Walker.

RELATED: Rabbi believed to be 1 of 4 hostages at North Texas synagogue described as man who promotes interfaith peace

Matthew DeSarno, special agent in charge of FBI Dallas, praised officers and FBI agents for their negotiation tactics that brought the end of the standoff.

"I’m extremely proud of the team of negotiators, the FBI agents and local police officers, who worked all day long engaging the subject and likely saved the lives of the subjects just through their engagement," DeSarno said. "It’s very likely this situation would have ended very badly early on in the day had we not had professional, consistent negotiation with the subject."

Citing sources familiar with the ongoing situation, both ABC News and the Associated Press reported that Akram was armed. During the Saturday evening news conference, however, DeSarno did not go into detail about whether the Akram was armed.

Multiple sources said that Akram was demanding throughout the day to speak to Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist suspected of having ties to al-Qaida, according to the AP. A connection between Siddiqui and Akram was not clear. 

Initially, law enforcement did not confirm a motive during their news conference and said that it appeared the incident was not targeted toward the Jewish community

However, subsequent messaging from a joint intelligence bulletin from the FBI, the Department of Justice and the National Counterterrorism Center suggested that the attack "underscores the enduring nature of violent threats posed to Jewish communities from terrorists and perpetrators of hate crimes."

Earlier on Saturday, a Facebook Live stream from Congregation Beth Israel had as many as 8,000 viewers before it was cut shortly before 2 p.m. The fixed-camera shot showed the pulpit of the synagogue; the faint voice of a man, presumed to be Akram, could be heard in the background, but the footage did not show any other activity within the building.

Colleyville police said they were aware of the livestream.

A White House official confirmed that the White House had been "closely monitoring" the hostage situation and that President Joe Biden had been briefed on it. 

Shortly after the hostages were freed, Biden issued a statement and thanked the "courageous" work of state, local and federal law enforcement, saying it was because of their efforts that "four Americans who were held hostage at a Texas synagogue will soon be home with their families."

"I am grateful to the tireless work of law enforcement at all levels who acted cooperatively and fearlessly to rescue the hostages," Biden said. "We are sending love and strength to the members of Congregation Beth Israel, Colleyville, and the Jewish community."

RELATED: Local, state and international leaders react to ongoing hostage situation at North Texas synagogue

On Saturday evening, Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson tweeted that the Dallas Police Department deployed additional patrols to Dallas synagogues and other sites as a precaution.

In the Jewish faith, Saturdays represent Shabbat, the day of the Sabbath. Congregation Beth Israel hosts Shabbat services every Saturday morning at 10 a.m.

According to its website, the Reform Jewish congregation was officially established in 1999. The synagogue has been led by Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker since 2006.

Early Sunday, Colleyville police said they were allowing residents in the area to return to their homes. FBI bomb techs had to dispose of some ordinances at the synagogue, so residents might have heard several loud noises around 2 a.m. 

While residents returned home, police expected to keep Pleasant Run Road closed between Hardage Lane and Shelton Drive for most of the day Sunday.

Watch raw footage from the scene: 

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