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Sydney siege: Hostages held in Lindt cafe

15.Dec.14, 12:47; Icon 1214; Date 0; Attitude +0 | 0 | -0

have made contact with the gunman.

Five people have been seen running from the building. It is not clear how many remain inside. A black Islamic flag has been displayed at the window.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott said it was "profoundly shocking" that people were being "held hostage by an armed person claiming political motivation".

He was speaking after chairing a meeting of the national security committee in Canberra.

Earlier Mr Abbott said: "Australia is a peaceful, open and generous society - nothing should ever change that and that's why I would urge all Australians today to go about their business as usual."

Senior police officers say they are on a footing "consistent with a terrorist event".

The incident began as people were arriving for work in Martin Place on Monday. Witnesses saw a man with a bag and gun walk into the Lindt chocolate shop and cafe.

Lindt said about 10 employees and 30 customers were thought to be inside at the time. Nearby offices were evacuated and police asked people to remain indoors and away from open windows.

The BBC's Jon Donnison in Sydney says an enormous police operation is in place, on a scale few Sydney residents will have seen.


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