At least two armed gunman took 13 people hostage at the Lindt Chocolat Cafe in Sydney, Australia on Monday, Australia’s Channel 7 news is reporting.
Photos from the scene depict a number of hostages pressed up against a window forced to hold a black flag with Arabic writing on it. Initial reports suggested it could be the flag of the Islamic State, however it appears to be the a flag bearing the Shahada, which is considered an “important symbol in Islam.”
— Jack Moore (@JFXM) December 14, 2014
This is an alleged image of the ringleader in the hostage situation in #Sydney
— Conflict News (@Conflicts) December 15, 2014
The crisis has forced the evacuation of the iconic Sydney Opera House, as well as road closures around the scene including many major offices and local banks.
At least two suspects has taken cafe workers and restaurant patrons hostage, and the BBC reports that hundreds of police have sealed off Martin Place where the situation is taking place.
There is a livestream of the hostage situation available here. This story is developing.
Update 7:23pm CT, Dec. 14: Lindt’s chief executive says there could be up to 50 hostages.
Update 7:26pm CT, Dec. 14: Police say gunman claim there are four devices located around the city of Sydney. This is still unconfirmed, but local law enforcement is calling for calm, Channel 7 reports.
Update 7:32pm CT, Dec. 14:
— NewsBreaker (@NewsBreaker) December 15, 2014
Update, 8:00pm CT, Dec. 14:
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott addressed the situation at a brief press conference on Monday, where he made no mention of terrorism. He said law enforcement and government officials do not know what motivated the hostage situation.
Suspects have not made any demands of the police.
“We don’t yet know the motivation of the perpetrator. We don’t know if this is politically motivated, though there are some indications it may be…
The whole point of politically motivated violence is to scare people out of being themselves. Australia is a peaceful, open and generous society. Nothing should ever change that and that’s why I would urge all Australians today to go about their business as usual. Of course if anyone does have any suspicions of untoward activity, there is the national security hotline at 1800-123-400 which I would urge them to call…
This is a very disturbing incident, I can understand concerns and anxiety of Australian people at a time like this. Our thoughts and prayers must above all go out to individuals caught up in this. I can think of almost nothing more distressing or terrifying to be caught up in such a situations.”
Update 9:08pm CT, Dec. 14: New South Wales police gave a statement to press on Monday afternoon. The police say suspect has not made contact with them, and law enforcement has tight controls and restrictions on the area.
Additionally, NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione said the police are looking into calls regarding devices around the city, but the tips have proven negative so far.