Hostages held inside Sydney cafe, Arabic flag held up
Australia’s world-famous Sydney Opera House was evacuated after a suspicious package was found, television channels reported on Monday (Dec 15), soon after gunmen were reported holding hostages in the centre of the city.
A police operation was already underway in the central business district of Sydney after hostages were being held inside a cafe, where a black flag with white Arabic text could be seen in the window.
A spokeswoman for New South Wales police could not immediately confirm the reports.
An Opera House spokeswoman did not answer calls.
Martin Place in the central business district was shut down as scores of police surrounded the Lindt Chocolate Cafe, with TV pictures showing a flag, black with white Arabic writing, held to a window.
Reports said as many as 20 people were in the cafe and that there were at least two gunmen, although police had no immediate comment, only confirming that an operation was underway.
Witnesses reported hearing loud bangs that sounded like gun shots. Patrick Byrne, a producer at Channel Seven whose newsroom is opposite the cafe, said staff at the television station watched the situation unfold.
“We raced to the window and saw the shocking and chilling sight of people putting their hands up against the panes of glass at the cafe,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
“This was just extraordinary.”