ISIS comes to Sydney? – gunman takes hostages, Jihadist flag on display [UPDATED]

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UPDATE:  We’ve switched to a live blogging tool.  All the old information will be below.  


NEWS.com.au reports

AN ARMED man is holding several people hostage at a cafe in Martin Place in Sydney.

There are hostages standing with their hands up at the windows in the popular Lindt chocolate shop, which has two or three entrances. There is also a black and white flag being held up in a window. It is believed to be the Black Standard, a jihadist flag.

Staff in shop aprons can be seen with their hands on the windows.

Police officers have guns drawn outside the cafe.

The chocolate shop is 30 or 40 metres from the Channel 7 offices so they have cameras trained on the building. The newsroom at Channel 7 have been evacuated.

There are State Government agencies are in the same building and police have shut down traffic in a wide perimeter surrounding the incident.

Trains around the area have been stopped and roads are blocked.

Train passengers have been ordered off trains and back onto the streets in Kings Cross.

12:53 UPDATE

A MAN from north west Sydney has been taken into custody on suspected terrorism related offences during a raid this morning by counter terrorism units from the Australian Federal Police and NSW Police.

The Daily Telegraph can confirm that an operation took place this morning in the suburbs of northwest Sydney.

The allegations relate to financing to send people to Syria.

One man is currently being questioned at Surry Hills police station and is expected to be charged to appear in Central Local Court later today.

This is a different incident to the hostage situation.

13:35 UPDATE

The Black Standard is a jihadist flag also known as the standard of Mohammed. It carries the symbol of the eagle and was one of the flags flown by the prophet Mohammed. It is used by jihadists and Islamists.

In August 2014, British Prime Minister David Cameron declared anyone carrying The Black Standard could be arrested.

It is also banned from public demonstration in the Netherlands

The use of the image the flag for non-educational purposes is forbidden in Germany.

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– via Mail Online

Sydney Opera House has been evacuated after a package was found. It was not known whether there is a connection to the cafe incident.

Australian prime minister, Tony Abbott, has issued a statement about the siege. The national security committee of cabinet has convened for briefings.

New South Wales police and the Australian federal police are currently responding to a reported hostage-taking incident in Martin Place in Sydney.

I have spoken with NSW premier Mike Baird and offered him all possible Commonwealth support and assistance.

The national security committee of cabinet has also convened for briefings on the situation.

This is obviously a deeply concerning incident but 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.

We will provide regular updates as further information becomes available.

 

New South Wales premier, Mike Baird, has issued a statement:

All my thoughts and prayers are with those members of the public affected by the situation in Martin Place and the NSW Police who are trained to deal with these events.

I have spoken to Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione and have full confidence the NSW Police are working effectively to resolve the situation.

I will provide further information as appropriate.

13:55 pm

New South Wales police have issued a statement saying they are trying to make contact with the people inside the cafe:

There is a police operation underway at Martin Place. Police and emergency services have responded and a number of streets around the area have been closed. The Martin Place train station is also shut.

Police are dealing with an armed incident and specialist officers are attempting to make contact those inside a café.

Some nearby offices have been evacuated as a precaution. Anyone else in the area encompassing Hunter, George, Elizabeth and Macquarie streets bordering Martin Place is directed to remain indoors and away from open windows. Anyone in the vicinity but outside that area is free to leave their buildings.

Police urge members of the public to remain calm and note that an appropriate police presence is in place.

Police urge the media to be responsible in their reporting. Speculation can cause unnecessary alarm.

Speculation isn’t really needed with a flag that is related to Islam is forced to be held up against the window.  The established facts are bad enough.

14:14 pm UPDATE

Prime minister Tony Abbott will address reporters in Canberra at 12.30pm. (that’s 14:30pm NZ time)

As we wait for Tony Abbott to address the public, let’s summarise the situation

Sydney cafe under siege, what we know so far

We are almost three hours into the siege and there is a lot of conflicting reports and speculation. Here is a brief rundown of what we actually do know:

  • Customers and staff at Lindt Cafe in Martin Place, Sydney, were taken hostage about 9.45am. There are varying reports on the number of hostages but four have been sighted in camera footage. They were made to stand up against the windows with their hands raised.
  • There is at least one gunman.
  • A black flag with white writing was put in the window of the cafe. It is not an Islamic State flag. The flag appears to bear the Shahada, an Islamic creed which reads: “There is no god but the God, Muhammad is the messenger of God.” It’s can be a benign symbol and appears across the Islamic world, including on the Saudi Arabian flag. But it has also been embraced by jihadi groups such as Jabhat Al-Nusra, an Al-Qaeda affiliate currently fighting in Syria.

Now here’s something you’d never hear Andre Little say

Opposition leader, Bill Shorten, has released a statement on the siege:

Our thoughts and prayers today are with the innocent people involved in this morning’s incident in Martin Place, Sydney.

Our thoughts are also with their families who are seeing this incredibly distressing situation unfold, along with the rest of Australia.

I have full confidence in the skill and professionalism of our police and security agencies.

I have spoken to Prime Minister Tony Abbott this morning and offered him the Opposition’s full support at this time.

Australians can be assured that we are one when it comes to keeping Australians safe.

 

“We don’t know the motivation” – Prime Minister Tony Abbott

Prime minister, Tony Abbott, is addressing the media. He says the motivation of the siege is not known and calls it a “disturbing incident”. He said there are “some indications” it could be politically motivated.

We have to appreciate that even in a society such as ours, there are people who would wish to do us harm, that’s why we have police and security organisations of the utmost professionalism that are ready and able to respond to a whole range of situations and contingencies including this situation that we are now seeing in Sydney. 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.

 

So far, we know next to nothing for sure, and speculation is just that – speculation.

15:10

New South Wales police Commissioner Andrew Scipione will hold a press conference at 1.30pm.  (15:30 NZ Time)

15:49

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Police Commissioner’s speech – facts:

One armed offender, but not ruling out another

Unknown number of hostages

The incident is only in one area – there are no associated issues anywhere else

Motivation of offender is unknown

Identity of offender unknown

Terrorism not confirmed, but police have taken on an anti-terrorist stance

No direct communication with male offender

Reports of armed devices around the city have been followed up by Police but none found

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NSW police commissioner Andrew Scipione on the flag that was put up in the window of the cafe:

Again, it’s a flag that we’ve had people looking at. We’re trying to work out what it stands for but at this stage it’s probably best that I don’t take that any further. We’re working with our partner agencies to better determine what it is we’re dealing with there.

Scipione says there is no confirmation the siege is related to terrorism.

17:04

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2GB have now been phoned twice, apparently by hostages at the offender’s request.  The radio host has not complied with the demands and directed the offender to contact the police.  Reading between the lines, it appears the offender is trying to get a voice through the media.

17:40

Three people have fled from the Lindt cafe. One staff member and what appears to be two customers.

It is not clear if the three people – who are believed to be hostages – were freed or escaped from the Lindt cafe. They ran out of a side door where heavily armed police were and hid behind the police.

 

18:05

15 is a number that is bandied about by media as being the remaining number of hostages, but that still needs confirmation.


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