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

Friends of Charlie Cytron-Walker believed he was one of the four hostages at Congregation Beth Israel.

COLLEYVILLE, Texas — Note: This story was updated with new information on the situation just after 9:30 p.m. Saturday.

Amid a hostage situation at a synagogue in Colleyville, friends of a rabbi believed to have been taken hostage describe him as a man who promotes peace between different religions.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who said he had been monitoring the situation, tweeted just after 9:30 p.m. that all the hostages were "out alive and safe." Colleyville police later tweeted all hostages were safe.

The hostage-taker, later identified by the FBI as 44-year-old Malik Faisal Akram, died. It is unclear how he died, as officials have not released further information. 

Friends of Charlie Cytron-Walker believed the rabbi was one of the four hostages at Congregation Beth Israel.

Police in Colleyville said SWAT officers responded to the scene Saturday morning in the 6100 block of Pleasant Run Road, near Tinker Road and Highway 26. Authorities with the Texas Department of Public Safety and FBI also responded.

Friends of Cytron-Walker were worried for him as the situation lasted through the evening.

Shahzad Mahmud told WFAA he's known Cytron-Walker for five to six years and that the rabbi is known for promoting interfaith peace and conversation.

"We were part of Interfaith, which he was instrumental in bringing the synagogue, the churches and the Islamic centers of Southlake and Colleyville," Mahmud explained. "And also, he's part of the Peace Together movement, same initiative bringing the different faiths together and just promote peace and harmony."

According to a biography on the synagogue's website, Cytron-Walker has been rabbi there since 2006 and is from Lansing, Michigan.

U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey, whose district covers a large part of the Dallas-Fort Worth area, also told WFAA that he has a close relationship with Cytron-Walker and his family.

"I know the rabbi, I know his wife very well. Our kids used to play together when they were young on Saturdays at playdates. So, a really great family," Veasey said. "Really praying this is resolved peacefully. Charlie's a great guy, really down-to-earth guy. His wife works at the Multi-Cultural Alliance, which is an organization that works to bring people of different faiths together."

"The synagogue that he leads there is one of the smaller synagogues in Tarrant County. Charlie really hit the ground running and worked just all the time to really get things going well there. I hate that he's having to go through this right now," he added.

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