Sydney, Dec 15: An armed man on Monday took undisclosed number of people hostage at a popular cafe and displayed an Islamic flag with Arabic script in the window, sparking a security alert in Australia.
According to reports, authorities have sealed off surrounding streets, evacuated people from buildings, and suspended rail services following the incident.
The incident took place at the Lindt Chocolate Cafe in Martin Place, in the heart of the city’s business district.
New South Wales Police Deputy Commissioner Catherine Burn has reportedly confirmed that three hostages have made it out of the Lindt cafe at Martin Place in Sydney. She, however, could not confirm the number of people remaining inside the cafe.
“A peaceful resolution will be what we are working for,” she reportedly said.
The police commissioner said negotiators had been in contact with the gunman holding hostages in the cafe siege but refused to speculate on his possible motivation.
Australia has been on high alert after the government raised concerns that citizens who have fought alongside jihadists in Iraq and Syria could return home radicalised and capable of carrying out attacks.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott convened a national security meeting to deal with the “disturbing” developments, suggesting only one person was responsible for the Lindt cafe incident.
The Prime Minister said: “We don’t yet know the motivation of the perpetrator, we don’t know whether this is politically motivated although obviously there are some indications that it could 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,” he added.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi condemned as “inhuman” the hostage crisis in Australia and said he prays for everybody’s safety.
Modi tweeted: “The incident in Sydney is disturbing. Such acts are inhuman & deeply unfortunate. I pray for everyone’s safety.”
(With Agency Inputs)