Hostages held in Sydney cafe
Updated: 2014-12-15 16:31
Australian police locked down the centre of the country's biggest city on Monday after an armed assailant walked into a downtown Sydney cafe, took hostages and forced them to display an Islamic flag, igniting fears of a jihadist attack.
Channel 7 reporter Chris Reason said on Twitter that from their newsroom directly facing the cafe he could see "a mix of women, men, young and old." The gunman is "forcing them to stand against windows, sometimes 2 hours at a time."
Prime Minister Tony Abbott has delivered his second statement on the situation. "This is a very disturbing incident. It is profoundly shocking that innocent people should be held hostage by an armed person claiming political motivation. Nevertheless I can say that New South Wales police and other agencies have responded to this incident with great professionalism."
Channel 10 says the hostage taker claims there are four bombs: two inside Lindt cafe and two in Sydney CBD.
Channel 10 is the third media outlet saying they have been contacted by hostages in the Lindt cafe. The hostages said the offender has two demands.
First, they want to speak with Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott.
Second, they want an IS flag brought to the cafe.
PM Abbott is preparing to make a short statement on the Martin Place siege following a second meeting of the National Security Committee, said Sydney Morning Herald.
Two hostages run towards a police officer outside Lindt cafe, where other hostages are being held, in Martin Place in central Sydney.
NSW police confirmed on Twitter that no one has been injured so far.
NSW Police Deputy Commissioner Catherine Burn will hold a press conference to update on the hostage situation at 6:30 pm local time.
Five hostages in total, including two females, have now escaped from the Lindt cafe, according to Sydney Morning Herald and2GB 873AM, a local radio station.
The two women were both wearing aprons indicating they were staff.
It is unclear whether the hostages had been released by the gunman or had escaped. Police, who are speaking with the three men to gather information about what is happening inside, declined to specify how many hostages remained in the cafe.
Sydney Opera House announced on Twitter that all the performances tonight would be cancelled due to the hostage situation.
Television footage earlier showed three of the hostages running from the building, including one wearing a Lindt apron.
Two men (L in blue jacket; R in white shirt) are seen running out of the Lindt cafe, where hostages are being held, in this still image taken from video from Australia's Seven Network.
Australian police negotiators had been in contact with the gunman holding hostages in a Sydney cafe siege but refused to speculate on his possible motivation.
New South Wales Deputy Police Commissioner Catherine Burn declined to say how many were still being held in the cafe but said it "is not as high as 30".