Two women were seen coming out of the Lindt Chocolat Cafe in Sydney's central financial district after at least one armed assailant took hostages and forced them to display a black Islamic flag on Monday. Earlier, three men had emerged from the cafe, but it is still unclear if the people were released or they escaped.
So far, a total of five people -- three men and two women -- have come out of the café while police reportedly said nearly 40 people remained inside. However, Catherine Burn, the New South Wales Police deputy commissioner, had said that there were fewer than 30 people inside the cafe, according to The Guardian. The standoff in the Martin Place neighborhood has so far lasted nearly six hours, and authorities have reportedly asked people to avoid the area.
One male hostage is currently in emergency at St Vincent’s Hospital in Darlinghurst, about 1.5 miles southeast of the cafe, The Guardian reported, citing a spokesperson for the hospital.
New South Wales Police confirmed that they are operating according to Counter Terrorism protocols, with “the Counter Terrorism and Security Command in charge of the operation,” and are working toward a “peaceful resolution.”
"The first thing we will do is make sure they are OK and then we will work with these people to find out some more information,” Burn said, according to ABC News. “Our No. 1 aim is to resolve this incident peacefully."
According to reports, hundreds of people in the area are trying to get a glimpse of the siege, creating problems for the police in carrying out rescue operations.
— Nine News Sydney (@9NewsSyd) December 15, 2014
— Jenna Hudson (@JennaHudson9) December 15, 2014
— ABC News (@abcnews) December 15, 2014