Hostages freed at Sydney cafe, reports of casualties

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sydney hostages

UPDATE (5 p.m. PST): Australian Police have named two victims who were killed in the downtown Sydney cafe hostage incident. 38-year-old lawyer Katrina Dawson and 34-year-old Lindt Chocolat Cafe manager died in the siege.

40-year-old Iranian cleric Man Haron Monis, the hostage taker, was killed in gunfire with police during the final moments of the siege.

UPDATE (9 a.m. PST): Australian SWAT teams have entered the Lindt Chocolate Cafe in downtown Sydney. After 16 hours, the siege is now over and the hostages have been freed.

Reports by Australia’s Channel 7 indicate two people have been killed – the gunman and one hostage – and three people are in critical condition including a police officer. There was gunfire as the police began to close in on the cafe, eventually entering the store.

The gunman is believed to be Iranian cleric Man Haron Monis, a 49-year-old who received political asylum in Australia in 1996. He was on bail facing several charges.

UPDATE (10 p.m. PST): 

Five people have come out running out of the Lindt Chocolate Cafe in Sydney.

Three men managed to escape the gunmen, including one male wearing a brown cafe apron. Shortly after, two young women escaped also wearing Lindt uniforms.

According to Channel 7, police are still unable to confirm the number of hostages although it is now stated there are less than 30 people inside. Negotiators have also made contact with the gunman.

However, it has since been confirmed that the black flag displayed is not the same as that used by the Islamic State.

EARLIER (5:40 p.m. PST):

Australia’s Channel 7 reports that as many as 50 people are being held hostage at a Lindt Chocolate Cafe in the Central Business District of Sydney, Australia.

The situation began to unfold just after 9 a.m. local time in Sydney (2 p.m. PST) when a gunmn took over the store. Channel 7 also has unconfirmed reports that the gunmen is wearing a bomb vest and that they have planted bombs all over Sydney.

Live television coverage also indicates hostages inside have their hands pressed against windows, with some hostages being forced to hold a black flag with Arabic writing – similar to the flag of the Islamic State.

The Sydney Opera House has also been evacuated after a suspicious package was found shortly after the hostage situation began. Airspace over the Central Business District has been closed and train and road routes into the area including the Sydney Harbour Bridge have been shut down.

“New South Wales Police and the Australian Federal Police are currently responding to a reported hostage-taking incident in Martin Place in Sydney,” said Prime Minister Tony Abbott in a statement. “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.”

Just hours before, a 25-year-old terror suspect was arrested in a raid in Sydney. Australia has been an ISIS terror target since it joined the U.S.-led coalition to fight ISIS militants in Iraq and Syria.

 

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