Monday, December 15, 2014

Gunman holds hostages' in Australia cafe

Australian police have cordoned off one of Sydney's main business areas, with local media reporting that at least 13 hostages were being held in a cafe.
Armed police closed off a part of Martin Place, home to the Reserve Bank of Australia, commercial banks and close to the New South Wales state parliament, after footage showed patrons inside a cafe standing with their hands pressed against the windows.

The window was later cleared of people.

The country's Channel 7 news reported that at least one armed man was holding the hostages at the cafe, opposite the broadcaster's studios, which it reported had been evacuated.


Al Jazeera's Andrew Thomas, reporting from Sydney, said the hostages were being held at the Lindt Cafe, and what appeared to be a black flag or sheet with Arabic writing was held up against its window.

"This could potentially be an attack associated with ISIL or events in the Middle East," Thomas said.

Some observers identified the flag as the al-Raya, which is a generic symbol of Islam that bears the Shahada, a statement of the Islamic faith that says: "There is no god but the God, Muhammad is the messenger of God".

The city's iconic Sydney Opera House was evacuated after the siege began, Thomas reported, adding that it was likely this was a security precaution.

New South Wales Police tweeted : "A police operation is underway in Martin Place, Sydney's CBD. People are advised to avoid the area."

Australia is on high alert for attacks by citizens returning from fighting in the Middle East, having raised its threat level to high and undertaken a series of high-profile raids in major cities.

"One of the intercepts, heavily reported by Australian media leading to the raids, was an alleged plot to carry out a beheading in Martins Place," Al Jazeera's Thomas said.


Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies

1 comment:

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