LIVE FEED via ABC News 24:
Three people have managed to escape the Lindt cafe in Sydney in the seventh hour of what appears to be a Islamic Terrorist siege. Two of the hostages came out through the front door and the other one through the fire escape.
Via The Guardian:
- Police have confirmed the three people seen running from the Lindt cafe were hostages who are now free.
- It is not clear how many hostages are in the cafe. Reports have ranged from 8 to 50. Five different hostages have been sighted in news footage.
- Police say there is “at least one” offender.
- The Sydney Opera House was evacuated for a non-specified reason but police have since left the scene.
- Conservative radio presenter Ray Hadley has claimed a hostage has called him and he spoke to him off the air. He says the NSW police commissioner verified the phone call but the commissioner would not confirm or deny the claim.
- The siege began about 9.45am AEST and police say while they have had contact with hostages there has been no direct contact with the offender. Police say nobody has been harmed to their knowledge.
Reportedly, there are no more than 30 hostages being held in the cafe.
The three free hostages will be interviewed by the police as soon as they receive medical attention.
Via The Guardian:
Two women, believed to be two of the hostages, have fled from the Lindt cafe. That brings the total number of people out of the hostage situation to five. It is still not clear if they are being released or are fleeing on their own. Previously three men fled from the cafe.
The woman pictured running appears to be the one on the left in the picture below holding the black flag with another woman.
A black flag with white Arabic writing reading “There is no God but Allah” and “Mohammed is the messenger of God” was displayed inside the store by the hostages.
It bears a strong resemblance to the banner waved by ISIL militants in the Middle East, with both flags making use of a black background emblazoned with the shahada, the Islamic statement of faith.
With minor variations, the phrase runs across the Islamic world as “There is no god but God, and Muhammad is his prophet”.
It also appears on the flags of Hizb ut-Tahrir, al-Qaeda, Somali militant group al-Shabab, Syrian rebel group Jabhat al-Nusra, and on the national flag of Saudi Arabia.
Via Twitchy, a look at one of the gunmen:
Via The Guardian:
Pictures are coming through now of the hostages who fled the scene around 20 minutes ago. It is not clear whether they were freed or escaped.
There has been a flurry of activity in the last 25 minutes – here’s what we know:
- Several hostages – thought to number five to seven – have fled the cafe.
- Loud bangs have been heard and police confirm live ammunition has been used.
- Other people have been removed from the scene, some on stretchers, apparently needing medical attention. There are unconfirmed reports that four hostages have been injured.
- A bomb disposal robot has gone into the building.
Police have released the identity of the hostage taker, an Iranian immigrant known to be a violent extremist, but for some reason allowed to remain at large even after being charged with heinous crimes.
An Iranian refugee known for sending hate mail to the families of Australian soldiers killed overseas and facing several charges of sexual assault is the armed man holding an unknown number of hostages in a Sydney cafe, a police source said on Tuesday.
Man Haron Monis, a self-styled sheikh, remained holed up in the cafe some 15 hours after the siege began.
“There’s no operational reason for that name to be held back by us now,” said the police source, who declined to be identified.
Monis, also known as Sheikh Haron, was charged last year with being an accessory to the murder of his ex-wife who was stabbed and set alight in a Sydney apartment block.
… we’re starting to get reports of “demands” from the as yet to be identified hostage taker: He wants an ISIS flag and to talk with PM Abbott. There are also reports that he is claiming to have planted four bombs, two in the cafe and two in Sydney’s CBD: