Hostages are being held by what witnesses say are at least two gunmen at a cafe in the central business district of Sydney on Monday. News footage shows the hostages were forced to hold up a flag with Arabic writing on it at the windows of the store.
Staff and customers emerge from a cafe in Sydney’s CBD where at least one armed gunman took ‘fewer than 30’ people hostage on Monday morning. The cafe remains surrounded by heavily armed police. Some inside the cafe were apparently forced to stand at the cafe’s windows holding up a flag bearing what appears to be the Islamic creed.
One witness said two suspects arrived at the Lindt Chocolat Cafe before 10:00 a.m., with one of them holding a blue sports bag.
The pair entered the cafe and shut down the automatic sliding doors. Some hostages were ordered to press their hands against the windows and hold up a flag inscribed with Arabic words, but some reports say the flag is not one used by the Islamic State.
Unconfirmed reports state one of the gunmen contacted the police and said he had set up ‘devices all over the city’, and requested to speak to the prime minister live on radio.
Hundreds of police officers with heavy gear were deployed to Martin Place. Occupants of nearby buildings were evacuated. Authorities have set up an exclusion zone, which includes the Martin Place train station.
We would like to thank everyone for their thoughts and kind support over the current situation at the Lindt Chocolate Café at Martin Place. We are deeply concerned over this serious incident and our thoughts and prayers are with the staff and customers involved and all their friends and families. The matter is being dealt with by the authorities and we are waiting for any updates from them.
A 25-year-old man from north west Sydney suspected of planning a terrorist attack in Australia was detained this morning. Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said it’s not clear whether the attack was politically motivated.
Witnesses on the scene report that an Islamic flag has been displayed in a window of the Lindt café in Martin Place, which has been cleared of people and surrounded by armed police.
Reports say as many as 20 people could be in the cafe and that there is at least one gunman, although police have not confirmed this.
Witnesses have also reported hearing loud bangs that sounded like gun shots.
SYDNEY SIEGE TIMELINE
9.45am – A number of hostages held inside a cafe in Sydney’s Martin Place with an Islamic flag pressed up against a window.
10.14am – Police establish a 150m exclusion zone around the cafe with specialist police outside the shop.
10.55am – The flag being displayed appears to be the Shahada flag which has been adopted by extremist groups such as the al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front.
11.40am – Channel Seven air footage of alleged armed offender. He is middle aged with a salt and pepper beard, wearing a headband with Islamic writing.
11.51am – NSW Police try to make contact with the people inside the cafe. They advise workers who are trapped in buildings inside the police cordon to stay away from windows.
1.30pm – NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione says they had moved to a ‘footing’ similar to dealing with a terrorist attack.
1.55pm – NSW Premier Mike Baird says Sydney is being tested today, but ‘we will remain a democratic society’
2.45pm – Lindt Chocolat Cafe Australia thank the public for their support via Facebook, saying they are ‘deeply concerned over this serious incident’
3.37pm – Three male hostages run out of the cafe.
3.50pm – NSW Police Deputy Commissioner Catherine Burn confirms negotiators have spoken with a gunman.
5.00pm – Two female Lindt workers leave the cafe.
‘The media can’t play a role in negotiating with people purporting to be from Islamic State holding hostages in a cafe in Sydney. This is the job of authorities to solve htis problem.