A hostage situation has been underway today in Martin Place, central Sydney, where an unverified number of people have been taken hostage in the Lindt cafe. Reports have numbered the hostages anywhere from 12 to 50. At the time of writing five had escaped, or had been set free.
Earlier a flag two female hostages were holding the cafe’s windows was attributed to the Islamic State by some media outlets; however, it is a black flag with white writing bearing the Islamic creed the Shahada. It is commonly found across Islamic countries, although it is also used by terrorist group Jabhat Al-Nusra. Police have apparently made contact with the gunman but no further information has been released.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott has called for calm and said, “We don’t yet know the motivation of the perpetrator.” He continued, “Australia is an open, peaceful and generous society and nothing should change that.”
Details have remained scarce and though calm has been urged New Limited Sydney tabloid The Daily Telegraph has already attributed the attack to IS, which it called a “Death Cult” in a special 2pm edition. There were apparently unrelated anti-terror raids in Sydney this morning; however New South Wales Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione has urged calm and said that the situation is contained and there are no related incidents going on in other parts of the city. The police are operating under Counter Terrorism protocols.
Treasurer Joe Hockey and Finance Minister Mathias Cormann decided despite the hostage situation to release the Mid Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook, or budget update, which revealed a deficit of over A$40 billion, which has partly been blamed on poor terms of trade.
When more information becomes available we will endeavor to update.