Sydney, Australia was gripped with terror Monday when police responded to a reported hostage-taking seige at a cafe in the central business district.
Television and still images from the scene showed several people inside the cafe holding their hands up in the air, pressed against windows, with a visible black flag bearing what appeared to be Arabic script.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott said in a statement that local and federal police were responding to the “reported hostage-taking incident in Martin Place in Sydney.”
He called it “obviously a deeply concerning incident” and said the national security committee of his cabinet was meeting on the situation.
There were multiple reports that hostages were being held inside the Lindt Cafe in the city’s central business district.
The Daily Telegraph newspaper of Sydney and Sky News reported it was believed there were 13 hostages being held in the cafe. Sky News reported there was at least one armed man holding the hostage and perhaps more.
Photographs posted on social media showed people within the cafe standing at a window and holding a black flag with Arabic writing.
The Sydney Operate House was evacuated as well, media reports said.
New South Wales state police would not say what was happening inside the Lindt Chocolat Cafe or whether hostages were being held. But television footage shot through the cafe’s windows showed several people with their arms in the air and hands pressed against the glass.
The footage showed two people inside the cafe holding up what appeared to be a black flag with white Arabic writing on it. It was not immediately clear what the flag said.
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SOURCE: USA Today – William M. Welch