BREAKING! Over a dozen hostages held in Sydney cafe, forced to hold Islamic flag in window


Police stand at the ready close to a cafe under siege in Martin Place in the central business district of Sydney, Australia, Monday, Dec. 15, 2014.© AP Photo/Rob Griffith Police stand at the ready close to a cafe under siege in Martin Place in the central business district of Sydney, Australia, Monday, Dec. 15, 2014.

By Matt Siege, Reuters

Dozens of hostages were trapped inside a central Sydney cafe on Monday, with local television showing some being forced to hold up a black flag with white Arabic writing in the window, raising fears of an attack linked to Islamic militants.Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who has warned of militant plans to attack Australian targets, said he was convening a meeting of the cabinet’s national security committee for a briefing on the hostage situation at the Lindt Cafe in the country’s commercial capital.”Police are dealing with an armed incident and specialist officers are attempting to make contact (with) those inside a cafe,” New South Wales Police said in a statement.

Australia, which is backing the United States and its escalating action against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, is on high alert for attacks by radicalised Muslims or by home-grown fighters returning from the conflict in the Middle East.

A Lindt Australia executive said there were about 10 staff working at the cafe, Sky Business television reported. Chief Executive Steve Loane also said there were “probably 30 customers” in the cafe, according to Sky Business.

Dozens of heavily armed police surrounded the cafe in Martin Place, home to the Reserve Bank of Australia, commercial banks and close to the New South Wales state parliament.



Television footage showed several people inside the cafe standing with their hands pressed against the windows.

Pictures showed a black and white flag similar to those used by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria being held up by what appeared to be a staff member and another woman. It was unclear how many assailants were involved.

A couple of hundred people were being held back by cordons and the fire brigade’s hazardous unit was on the scene, a Reuters witness said.



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