From BBC: At least one gunman has taken several people hostage at a cafe in the centre of the Australian city of Sydney. Pictures on Australian television have shown at least three people with their hands up against a window, and a black flag with Arabic writing. Hundreds of armed police have sealed off the normally busy Martin Place in Sydney's central business district. Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has described the incident as "deeply concerning". "All Australians should be reassured that our law enforcement and security agencies are well trained and equipped and are responding in a thorough and professional manner," he said in a statement.
THIS IS A HOSTAGE SITUATION! pic.twitter.com/iIyDBppv0t— Soulless Ginger (@mchastain81) December 15, 2014
9:15 PM UPDATE by Katie McHugh: Australian Prime Minister Abbott urged his countrymen to "go about your business as usual" as the hostage situation unfolds, adding his thoughts are with the hostages "caught up in" the situation.
9:09 PM UPDATE by Mary Chastain: The NSW Commissioner will hold a conference shortly.
BREAKING: NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione to hold press conference shortly— PzFeed Top News (@PzFeed) December 15, 2014
9:05 UPDATE by Katie McHugh: The U.S. consulate is sending emergency messages to American citizens in Sydney.
JUST IN: US Consulate in Sydney issues emergency message to US citizens to "maintain a high level of vigilance" due to hostage situation.— ABC News (@ABC) December 15, 2014
8:56 PM UPDATE by Mary Chastain:
8:55 UPDATE by Jordan Schachtel: The nearby U.S. consulate has been evacuated. Spokesperson urged Americans to "maintain a high level of vigilance and take appropriate steps to enhance your personal security," according to Yahoo News.
8:51 PM UPDATE by Mary Chastain: BBC News interviewed a man claiming law enforcement evacuated a hospital. The bomb squad was called into the hospital, but it was declared safe. Non-essential people are still being evacuated.
7 cameraman Scott Lipman says the bomb squad has just investigated a suspicious backpack near St Vincent's hospital in Sydney- declared SAFE— Kristy Mayr (@KristyMayr7) December 15, 2014
8:47 PM UPDATE by Mary Chastain:
8:42 PM UPDATE by Jordan Schachtel: Officials are urging citizens not to reveal police positions on social media.
8:38 PM UPDATE by Jordan Schachtel: The Lindt Australia CEO says, “The best information is that there’s like 40 or 50 people in there, customers and employees included. That’s a rough figure.”
8:37 PM UPDATE by Katie McHugh: ABC News reports that the Australian prime minister will speak shortly on their network's livestream.
8:35 PM UPDATE by Katie McHugh: Politico reporter Maggie Haberman rewteeted a starting new report:
8:18 PM UPDATE by Jordan Schachtel: Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott will hold a press conference to address the ongoing situation at 8:30 PM E.T.
8:11 PM UPDATE by Jordan Schachtel: A picture of the alleged gunman has surfaced.
8:03 PM UPDATE by Jordan Schachtel: Sydney Channel 7 is now reporting that a man with a suspicious package went missing in Sydney hospital. The hospital is just feet away from where the hostage situation is taking place.
8:02 PM UPDATE by Mary Chastain: The Lindt Café is in the middle of the financial hub of Sydney.
7:57 PM UPDATE by Frances Martel: The premier of NSW has issued a statement on the attack.
7:56 PM UPDATE by Katie McHugh: One Twitter user points out that the flag the suspect forced hostages to hold up is a Jabat Al-Nusra Front flag.
The flag in the Lindt shop is not an ISIS flag but a Jabat Al-Nusra Front flag. Not that it matters. pic.twitter.com/r3eap2Wr9z— Bill (@DefendWallSt) December 15, 2014
7:55 PM UPDATE by Mary Chastain: A tweet allegedly shows one of the terrorists.
BREAKING PHOTO: First images of one Sydney hostage taker, Middle Aged man wearing black bandana - News7 pic.twitter.com/1yFzJTQgeh"— JJ greenwald (@YGreenwald) December 15, 2014
7:53 PM UPDATE by Katie McHugh: CNN is reportedly blurring out the jihadi flag on its broadcast.
CNN blurring out Islamist flag.— S.M (@redsteeze) December 15, 2014
7:52 PM UPDATE by Mary Chastain: 7News Sydney reports the suspect had one gun.
7:44 PM UPDATE by Jordan Schachtel: Australian media reports the suspect is wearing a blue backpack and sporting what is being perceived as a suicide vest.
7:31 PM UPDATE by Mary Chastain: The suspects' intentions are unclear, though sources have told Australia's news.abc.au that the men taking the café hostage are allegedly demanding to speak to Prime Minister Tony Abbott live on the radio.
The Sydney Opera house has been evacuated following the siege at Martin Place.— Evana (@evana_abade) December 15, 2014
7:07 PM UPDATE: (AFP) Hostages were being held inside a cafe in central Sydney Monday with a siege underway and an Islamic flag held up to a window, reports and witnesses said.
Martin Place in the central business district was shut down as scores of police surrounded the Lindt Chocolat Cafe, with TV pictures showing a flag, black with white Arabic writing, held to a window.
BREAKING: Hostages are being forced to hold an ISIS flag at a Lindt cafe in Sydney's Martin Place, as police man the doors outside #7NEWS— Kristy Mayr (@KristyMayr7) December 14, 2014
Sydney Australia: Not technically ISIS flag but Shahadah flag with Islamic creed on it. Commonly used by militants: pic.twitter.com/s7kg2wSrlQ— Mubin Shaikh (@CaliphateCop) December 14, 2014
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