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    This image taken from video shows people holding up what appeared to be a black flag with white Arabic writing on it, inside a cafe in Sydney, Australia Monday, Dec. 15, 2014

    LIVE: Islamist Holds Hostages in Sydney, Several People Manage to Escape

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    Islamist Takes Hostages in Sydney Cafe (17)
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    Monday morning an armed Islamist gunman took hostages at a Lindt Chocolate Cafe in Sydney, he reportedly contacted a local radio station saying that four bombs were planted and demanding negotiations with Australian PM Tony Abbott.

    MOSCOW, December 15 (Sputnik) — Five people have managed to escape from a Sydney cafe, where an armed man took up to 40 people hostage on Monday morning, ABC News reported.

    LIVE: Islamist Takes Hostages in Sydney Cafe

    00:33 a.m. (AEMD)

    The gunman is allegedly Iranian; he is probably an asylum seeker with numerous rape charges and murder of ex-wife.

    00:30 a.m. (AEMD)

    The New South Wales police commissioner Andrew Scipione told journalists that all the hostages are believed to be unharmed.

    00:15 a.m. (AEMD)

    7 News Sydney correspondent Chris Reason reports via Twitter that movement was spotted in the cafe.

    00:04 a.m. (AEMD)

    11:45 p.m. (AEMD)

    Some media report that gunman is holding about 20 hostages in complete darknes at Lindt Cafe in Sydney.

    11:30 p.m. (AEMD)

    "Our focus to date has been on the welfare of those people who are being held hostage in this siege situation in Martin Place. The matter is in the hands of the New South Wales authorities and I think it’s too early for us to speculate on the motivations or the detail," Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop told to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, commenting on the Sydney siege. "Our concern is to ensure that this ends, hopefully peacefully, as soon as possible."

    11:19 p.m. (AEMD)

    Media report that the police are still in direct negotiations with the gunman.

    10:53 p.m. (AEMD)

    More than 12 hours on, night falls on Sydney as hostages remain still trapped in the cafe.

    10:41 p.m. (AEMD)

    Some roads remain closed around Sydney's central business district due to the ongoing police operation, according to NSW Police official Twitter account.

    10:37 p.m. (AEMD)

    10:28 p.m. (AEMD)

    Clover Moore, Lord Mayor of Sydney, wrote via Twitter that central business disctrict will be open and operating tomorrow.

    10:21 p.m. (AEMD)

    An empty station. A sobering reminder... #MartinPlace #sydney

    A photo posted by Fiona Hulton (@feehulton) on Dec 12, 2014 at 3:18am PST

    10:11 p.m. (AEMD)

    NCW police published a video of NSW Premier Mile Baird and comissioner Andrew Scipione's news conference on Sydney siege.

    9:58 p.m. (AEMD)

    The police appear to be preparing for the possibility the siege will continue into Tuesday morning and possibly longer, BBC reports.

    9:45 p.m. (AEMD)

    These streets are currently blocked off in Sydney.

    Lindt Cafe in Sydney
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    Blocked streets in Sydney

    9:37 p.m. (AEMD)

    Airspace in Sydney is open but some flights are being diverted around the central business district, media report.

    9:36 p.m. (AEMD)

    9:30 p.m. (AEMD)

    Mark Di Stefano, Buzzfeed breaking news reporter wrote on Twitter that Sydney central business district is very quiet right now.

    9:20 p.m. (AEMD)

    9:11 p.m. (AEMD)

    #illridewithyou hashtag showing support for Muslim Australians takes off on social media following a siege at the Lindt cafe in Sydney.

    9:05 p.m. (AEMD)

    A witness in Sydney told Sputnik that the police had just held another conference, but are not giving any information away. NSW State Premier told everyone in the lock out zone to work from home tomorrow.

    9:01 p.m. (AEDT)

    8:59 p.m. (AEDT)

    8:53 p.m. (AEDT)

    A black flag with white Arabic writing reading "There is no God but Allah" and "Mohammed is the messenger of God" is seen in the cafe.

    8:44 p.m. (AEDT)

    8:38 p.m. (AEDT)

    8:36 p.m. (AEDT)

    8:31 p.m. (AEDT)

    "I understand that no one has been injured, and if that is true we are grateful," NSW Police Comissioner Andrew Scipione said. He also confirmed police are in contact with gunman. The National Security Committee of Cabinet has met twice; Prime Minister Tony Abbott  described incident as "profoundly shocking".

    8:28 p.m. (AEDT)

    According to reports, three men and two women escape a cafe in Sydney where an undisclosed number of people are being held hostage by an armed man.

    8:21 p.m. (AEDT)

    NSW Premier Mike Baird asks the state and Australia to pray for hostages being held incafe in Sydney.

    8:17 p.m. (AEDT)

    Police are preparing to continue the hostage rescue operation into the night as the local time in Sydney is now 8 p.m.

    8:10 p.m. (AEDT)

    7:58 p.m. (AEDT)

    ABC Australia Julia Holman wrote via Twitter that police have identified the gunman, he is known to New South Wales police. But media outlets are being asked not to name him at this point.

    7:51 p.m. (AEDT)

    The Australian Muslim community releases a statement saying that they share utter shock and horror at the unprecedented scenes emerging from the Lindt cafe.

    7:48 p.m. (AEDT)

    Gunman was allegedly "extremely agitated", shouting as some hostages escaped, Gold Coast Blog reports.

    7:42 p.m. (AEDT)

    Chris Reason, 7 News Sydney correspondent, has been tweeting what he could see from channel's newsroom which directly overlooks into the Lindt Cafe.

    7:35 p.m. (AEDT)

    7:33 p.m. (AEDT)

    7:30 p.m. (AEDT)

    7:28 p.m. (AEDT)

    7:20 p.m. (AEDT)

    7:13 p.m. (AEDT)

    7:09 p.m. (AEDT)

    7:03 p.m. (AEDT)

    NSW deputy police commissioner Catherine Burn said that the five hostages who left the cafe "are now being assessed to make sure their health is okay and then police will talk to them." She would not confirm how many are left in the cafe, BBC reports.

    6:59 p.m. (AEDT)

    6:55 p.m. (AEDT)

    New South Wales police are monitoring social media; say they won't speculate on gunman demands reported by local media: Deputy commissioner, according to the Straits Times Australia.

    6:42 p.m. (AEDT)

    NSW deputy police commissioner, Catherine Burn, during a press-conferense said that five people have left the building.

    "I won’t clarify any operation tactics at the moment. It is really important to remember that this is ongoing, that we still have people who are being held. We still have a person that we are dealing with. So as soon as we are able to provide that information, we certainly will but the good news is that we do have five people who have come out of that building and that we are now dealing with," she said.

    6:40 p.m. (AEDT)

    Hashtag #PrayforSydney gains increasing popularity on Twitter.

    6:37 p.m. (AEDT)

    A witness claims that the gunman is a tall man in his late 40s. He demands an Islamic State flag.

    6:35 p.m. (AEDT) 

    6:30 p.m. (AEDT)

    6:15 p.m. (AEDT)

    Australian PM has delivered his second statement on the hostage situation in Sydney.

    6:07 p.m. (AEDT)

    A correspondent from TEN News Sydney is reported to have spoken to hostages inside the cafe, and the suspect made a number of demands.

    6:04 p.m. (AEDT) Pictures of people taking selfies at Martin Place have appeared on Twitter and attracted much criticism from the online community. Users are calling them "disrespectful".

    6:01 p.m. (AEDT) 

    It has been reported by Sky News that two more hostages have been released.

    ABC News live video showed that at least three people escaped through the emergency exit. A Sydney police representative confirmed that the hostages who had managed to escape were safe.

    4:35 p.m. (AEDT)

    4:00  p.m. (AEDT)

    The police are currently holding negotiations with a gunman who took hostage staff and customers of the Lindt Cafe in Sydney, deputy police commissioner Catherine Burn said Monday.

    It [negotiations] might take a bit of time and I can assure you we want to resolve this peacefully," Burn said during a press conference, adding that the police's "number one priority is the safety of everyone concerned."

    According to Burn, there are no more than 30 people trapped inside of the cafe. It has been initially reported that there were about 40 hostages.

    Unconfirmed reports on local news outlets alleged the hostage-taker contacted a local radio host, claiming four explosive devices were planted across Sydney and demanding to speak with Prime Minister Tony Abbott. The CEO of the establishment under siege was reported by the News Corp online outlet to peg the number of hostages at 40 to 50 people.

    12:00 a.m.  (AEDT)

    Australian PM Abbott called the incident "deeply concerning" in a statement. "All Australians should be reassured that our law enforcement and security agencies are well trained and equipped and are responding in a thorough and professional manner," he added.

    11:23 a.m. (AEDT)

    10:00 a.m. (AEDT)

    At least 13 and possibly up to 50 customers and staff were taken hostage by an armed person at Sydney's Lindt Cafe. Several media outlets reported that the suspect was carrying a backpack and a device that looked similar to a suicide belt. The Sydney Opera House a few hundred meters from the area was evacuated due to a suspicious object.

    Islamist Takes Hostages in Sydney Cafe (17)


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