Durban Prays for Sydney. With over 28 000 South Africans living in the city of Sydney, we pray for their safety.
Social media, news channels and the entire world has been shocked by the hostage drama that is unfolding in Sydney, Australia. According to unconfirmed reports there are two bombs in the cafe and another two in the Business district of the city. The all-day hostage siege continued Monday evening in Sydney, where employees and customers were taken hostage during morning rush hour at a cafe in the city’s main financial and shopping district. Five hostages have since emerged, running from the building and hiding behind heavily armed officers. The gunman took an unknown number of people hostage at the height of Monday morning’s rush hour and the siege is ongoing.
Here are the facts we know:
At least one gunman stormed the Lindt cafe in Sydney at around 9.45am local time (10.45pm GMT). :: Police were alerted when a woman reported seeing a man carrying a gun in a blue bag. :: The man appears to be middle-aged, with a beard, and is wearing a black and white headband. There are reports he is known to police and media outlets. :: A flag with Arabic writing was displayed at the cafe window and several hostages were seen with their hands up against the window. :: The writing on the flag appears to be the shahada, or profession of faith in Islam, and says: “There is no god but Allah; Mohammed is the Messenger of Allah.” :: Australian prime minister Tony Abbott said there are indications the siege could be politically motivated. :: The scene of the drama, Martin Place, is in Sydney’s financial centre and houses several prominent buildings, including the New South Wales parliament, the US consulate, the country’s central bank and the Commonwealth Bank of Australia.
Some six hours into the siege, three men emerged from the popular cafe and ran for their lives, two from the front door and one from an emergency exit. :: Around an hour later two women who appeared to be staff members also fled into the arms of police.
It is understood that they all escaped and were not released. :: Police have confirmed that negotiators have made contact with the gunman. :: His motives are unknown. The two female hostages told Channel Ten news the gunman claims there are four bombs; two inside the Lindt cafe and two in Sydney’s financial district. :: It is not clear how many hostages are being held. Reports vary from eight to 50 people. :: However, police said the numbers are “not as high as 30”.
:: In a news conference at around 8.30pm local time, police said they have the “very best negotiators on the job” and that their only priority is to get the hostages out safely. :: Speaking directly to the hostages, Commissioner Andrew Scipione said: “Rest assured we are doing all we can to set you free.” :: They did not say if anyone has been harmed. :: Anyone who works in the area has been advised to work from home on Tuesday. :: Australia raised its terror threat level in September.
Australian police said on Monday they are monitoring alleged demands made on social media by hostages being held in a siege at a Sydney cafe and the “situation is contained in one area”. Network 10 reported that two female hostages had called with claims from the gunman that two bombs were planted elsewhere in the city. Social media posts by alleged hostages claimed the gunman wanted to speak directly with Prime Minister Tony Abbott. “That is forming a part of our tactical response in how to handle this,” Deputy Police Commissioner Catherine Burn said of the reports, declining to comment on any demands from the hostage-taker. She said people should go about their business as normal in Sydney.
Australian police locked down the centre of the country’s biggest city on Monday after an armed assailant walked into the Lindt cafe in the heart of Sydney’s financial district, took hostages and forced them to display an Islamic flag, igniting fears of a jihadist attack. According to the 2006 Australian census 104,128 Australians were born in South Africa. South African Australians are Australian citizens who are of South African ancestry or South Africa-born people who reside in Australia. Sydney has the largest number of South African born residents (28,425), followed by Perth (18,828), Melbourne (17,318) and Brisbane (12,821).