Three Dead After Police Storm Sydney Cafe, Ending Hostage Crisis

Three people are dead after police stormed the Lindt chocolate cafe in Sydney's Martin Place, where Man Haron Monis allegedly held 17 hostages for hours. Monis died in a gunfight with police, authorities said.

What We Know So Far

  • Police stormed the Lindt chocolate cafe in central Sydney after 17 people were held hostage at gunpoint for almost 17 hours.
  • Three people died in the incident: the 50-year-old alleged gunman, Man Haron Monis; a 34-year-old man; and a 38-year-old woman.
  • Two pregnant women and one police officer were hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries.
  • At least six hostages escaped from the cafe before police stormed in.
  • Police said the gunman, Man Haron Monis, has a long history with law enforcement authorities.
  • One hostage was an employee of Infosys in India.
  • Hostages were forced to stand in the windows and hold flags with messages reading "There is no God but Allah" and "Mohammed is the messenger of God."
  • Several nearby office buildings, including the U.S. and India consulates, were evacuated.


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New South Wales Police told BuzzFeed News that they have no record of a gun license for Monis.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott said in a news conference Wednesday that Man Haron Monis had a gun license, but there have been some speculation whether this is accurate.

PM @TonyAbbottMHR's office is sticking by the assertion that the #sydneysiege gunman did have a gun licence, despite reports that is false.

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Australia's Prime Minister said in a press conference Wednesday that the gunman had been on the Security Intelligence Organization's watch list in 2008 and 2009, but then had been removed for unknown reasons.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the gunman, Man Haron Monis, had been on the watch list for a series of offensive letters he'd sent to the families of deceased military soldiers.

"I don't know why he dropped off the watch list in those days, I really don't," Abbott said.

Abbott also said that Monis had a long criminal record, including murder and sexual assault offenses, and was currently on bail. Despite this, he was receiving welfare payments and had a gun license.

During the news conference, Abbott announced that federal and New South Wales officials would be conducting a review of how Monis evaded authorities.

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Prime Minister Tony Abbott has admitted the gunman, Man Haron Monis, was not on the Australian Federal Police’s “terror watch list”.

Abbott held a Tuesday afternoon press conference conceding that despite the "terror alert level" being set to "High" and the gunman being on bail, Mon Haron Monis wasn't on the AFP's list.

Even though Monis was "well known" to authorities, Abbott said he didn't "believe he was on a terror watch list at this time."

"There was nothing consistent about this individual's life, except that he was consistently weird," he added.

But Abbott — flanked by state and federal policing authorities — insisted that even if Monis had been on such a list, he might not have been picked up by authorities before Monday.

"Even if this individual had been monitored 24 hours a day, it's quite likely, certainly possible, that this incident could have taken place," he said.

Discussing the siege, the prime minister said: "This has been an absolutely appalling and ugly incident, that's the only way to describe it. Our hearts go out to the families of Katrina Dawson and Tori Johnson. It's about as innocent a thing as anyone can do.

"To go and grab a morning coffee before the working day has truly started. Decent innocent people who got caught up in the sick fantasy of a deeply disturbed individual.

"The tragedy of these times is that there are people even in a society such as ours who wish to do us harm. We are not immune to the politically motivated violence which has for so long stalked other countries."

Abbott also played tribute to the New South Wales authorities' handling of the situation: "Everyone has been impressed by the speed of the NSW response, the thoroughness of the preparations they made and the professionalism of the action they took once it became obvious that people inside the cafe were being taken out by this deluded and sick individual.

"I think every Sydneysider can feel quietly proud of the way this city has handled one of the most difficult 36 hours in our history."

New South Wales Premier Mike Baird expressed anger that Monis had been granted bail: "We're all outraged that this was guy was on the street. I'm incredibly upset. I'm outraged!"

Premier Baird also announced he'd be willing to toughen bail laws pending a complete review and Prime Minister Abbott left the terror alert level set to "High".

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A heartbroken Muslim woman from Sydney named Adila shared her feelings on local ABC radio on Tuesday morning in a call that is being widely shared online.
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The family of Lindt Cafe manager Tori Johnson have released a statement to Ben Fordham of Channel 9 News.

Cafe manager Tori Johnson's family releases statement to @BenFordham: "We are so proud of our beautiful boy Tori"

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Breaking: Injured list released from @nswpolice... three women with gunshot wounds. Two pregnant women uninjured

NSW Police has released more information about those injured, including three women suffering gunshot wounds and two pregnant women who are now stable.

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Police in New York City say they have "deployed resources" to possible targets after the Sydney siege, including the Australian consulate and Lindt shops in Manhattan.

We are in close contact with officials in Australia and are constantly monitoring the situation. - Dep. Commish Miller

New York police officers will also be sent to Sydney to learn from the tragedy.

Dep. Commish of Intel & CT Miller speaking about the NYPD coverage due to recent attack in Sydney, Australia.

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Police Comnr Scipione laying flowers at Martin Place: "I'm close to tears myself" #SydneySiege @abc730 @abcnews

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The President of the NSW Bar Association Jane Needham has released a statement on the death of 38-year-old barrister Katrina Dawson.

It is with a heavy heart and deep sorrow that I must inform members of the New South Wales Bar Association that Katrina Dawson, of 8 Selborne Chambers, passed away in the early hours of this morning. Katrina, together with two other members of the NSW Bar, were held as hostages during the incident at the Lindt Café in Phillip Street, Sydney, yesterday.

Katrina was one of our best and brightest barristers who will be greatly missed by her colleagues and friends at the NSW Bar. She was a devoted mother of three children, and a valued member of her floor and of our bar community. Our thoughts are with her family at this time, including her brother, Sandy Dawson of Banco Chambers.

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As a mark of respect, flags on all Commonwealth buildings will fly at half-mast for victims of the #sydneysiege

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The two deceased hostages have been named as Katrina Dawson, a 38-year-old lawyer, and Tori Johnson, the 34-year-old manager of the Lindt cafe.

#BREAKING: #Sydneysiege hostages killed confirmed as Lindt manager Tori Johnson aged 34 & lawyer Katrina Dawson 38

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Sydney residents have been waking up to the grim news, gathering in Martin Place to mourn and comfort one another. View more photos here.

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Media mogul Rupert Murdoch, whose News Corporation company owns Sydney's Daily Telegraph, has landed himself in controversy after a tweet that some have labelled "insensitive" following the siege.

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The flags on the Sydney Harbour Bridge are at half mast.

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Prime Minister Tony Abbott told a press conference in Canberra "there are lessons to be learned" from the Sydney cafe siege, while offering words of condolence to the families of the two hostages killed.

"What we do know is that the perpetrator was well known to State and Commonwealth authorities," Abbott said of the suspected gunman Man Haron Monis. "He had a long history of violent crime, infatuation with extremism, and mental instability."

The Prime Minister praised NSW police for their actions during the lengthy siege. "Australians should be reassured by the way our law enforcement and security agencies responded to this brush with terrorism," Abbott said.

Abbott said he intended to travel to Sydney from Canberra later on Tuesday, but extended his sympathy to the loved ones of those killed.

"There is nothing more Australian than dropping in at the local cafe for a morning coffee and it's tragic beyond words that people going about their everyday business should have been caught up in such a horrific incident," he said.

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Manny Conditsis, the former lawyer for alleged gunman Man Haron Monis, described him as an "extreme ideologue" to ABC News.

"He had an incredible passion to fight governments and rally against them for sending Australian soldiers to fight what he would call unjust wars where innocent women and children are being killed," Conditsis told the broadcaster.

"That is what his passion was about or at least that is how he expressed his passion," the lawyer said. "He always said to me that he loved Australia and he loved Australian people but he hated the Government for what they were doing."

When asked whether his former client should have been out on bail after being charged with being an accessory to the murder of his ex-wife, Conditsis described the prosecution's case against Haron Monis as weak.

"With the benefit of reflection," Conditsis said, "one can say, 'Look what happened now, he should not have been at large.' Sure, that's an easy comment to make. But one has to be careful to look at the precise matters and facts that were put before the court at the point in time that bail was granted."

Conditsis said he was offended by "inappropriate" questions as to whether his "conscience was clear" for securing bail for Haron Monis.

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Australian newspapers and their front page headlines this morning #sydneysiege

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Prime Minister Tony Abbott has released a statement on the grim end to the hostage drama.

Facebook: TonyAbbottMP
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Police activated an “emergency action plan” and stormed a besieged Sydney café in the middle of the night after “a number of gunshots” were fired in the store, the head of the New South Wales Police has said.

Two hostages, a 34-year-old man and a 38-year-old woman, were killed in the ensuing raid, as was the suspected 50-year-old gunman, who has been identified by police as Man Haron Monis.

Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione told a press conference that teams of officers made the decision to enter the café with volley of flash grenades in order to save hostages.

"They made the call because they believed at that time if they didn't enter there would have been many more lives lost," Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione said.

A number of hostages managed to flee the café before the police went in at 2:10 a.m. local time.

For the first time, police also released a figure for the total number of people who were taken hostage in the Lindt Chocolate Café in Martin Place on Monday morning.

"We have accounted for, at this stage, 17 hostages," Scipione said. "That includes the five that escaped yesterday and a number that have been caught up with, some with traumatic injuries, some with medical conditions."

Scipione said the police have launched a detailed investigation into what he termed "a critical incident."

A somber-looking Mike Baird, the premier of New South Wales, said Sydney will not be cowed by the “horrendous, vicious attack.”

"Unbelievably overnight, we have lost some of our own in an attack we never thought we would see here in our city," Baird said. "In the past 24 hours, this city has been shaken, by a tragedy that none of us could have ever imagined."

"The values we held dear yesterday we hold dear today," he said. "They are the values of freedom, democracy, and harmony. These defined us yesterday, they will define us today, they will define us tomorrow."

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Three people died, and four others were injured, as police stormed the Sydney cafe at 2:10 a.m. local time, NSW police have said.

The alleged gunman, Man Haron Monis, was among those killed during the shoot-out. He was pronounced dead after being taken to hostage, police said in a statement.

The two hostages killed were a 34-year-old male and a 38-year-old woman.

One woman was taken to hospital with a gunshot wound to her shoulder, while two other women were being treated for "non-life threatening injuries." A male police officer also suffered a "non-life threatening wound to his face from gunshot pellets."

The police statement does not detail how many people in total had been inside the café throughout the course of the stand-off.

Here's the police press release. Three people died in the siege and four others injured #siege

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You can watch the police press conference via this live stream of ABC News.

View this video on YouTube
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A police press conference is due to begin soon.

Police confirm press conference with Premier and NSW Police Commissioner to be closer to 6.00am. #SydneySiege #9News

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#BREAKING: NSW Police confirm gunman from #SydneySiege is dead

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Paramedics removed one person on a stretcher from the cafe, with bloodstains visible on the blankets.

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A bomb-detecting robot was deployed by police in armored suits once officers stormed the cafe.

Bomb disposal experts were also seen inside the cafe.

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Hostages are widely reported to have been taken to both Royal Prince Albert hospital and Royal North Shore hospital.

Police at #RPA hospital in #Sydney where it's believed hostages from the #SydenySiege have been brought. @ABCNews24

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Roads still closed off at Martin Place, but Police presence has diminished significantly. #sydneysiege

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.#MartinPlace still locked down after police stormed Lindt cafe. #sydneysiege @amworldtodaypm

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SYDNEY (@AP) - Sydney hospital official says hostage receiving treatment for gunshot wound to the leg.

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Here is footage from a video journalist with The Guardian showing ambulance officers wheeling people away from the cafe on stretchers.

View this video on YouTube
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Paramedics can be seen resuscitating at least one person after raid on the Sydney Cafe (via @GettyImages)

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Here is everything we know so far about the alleged gunman, Man Haron Monis.

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Sydney siege is over. More details to follow.

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At least one of the hostages was wheeled away on a stretcher.

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Here is video from ABC News of the moment police stormed the cafe.

View this video on YouTube
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Bomb squad robot entering cafe, looks like #SydneySiege may be over, lots of sirens and alarms

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An image of more hostages fleeing the cafe a short time ago, amid flash grenades and loud bangs.

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#BREAKING NSW police have confirmed that the siege is over, but have not commented on injuries #sydneysiege

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Police confirm Lindt Cafe siege is over. Shots have been fired but police will not confirm any injuries or casualties

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Lots of bangs, hostages out, no sign of shooter #SydneySiege

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Live feed of the police's siege of the cafe:

View this video on YouTube
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At least one person was wheeled away from the scene on a stretcher by paramedics.

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A number of paramedics were seen rushing stretchers to the cafe, while a fire alarm could be heard blaring.

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ABC News' live feed showed this hostage being carried out by police as authorities stormed the cafe:

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UPDATE: Police have confirmed that live ammunition was used as heavily armed police stormed the café in #MartinPl. #SydneySiege #9News

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Multiple shots and loud bangs have now been heard, and an unknown number of hostages have escaped.

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At least one more hostage appears to have escaped from the cafe and be met by police.

An ABC journalist on the scene said "a loud bang" was heard:

At least one more person has fled #sydneysiege. Followed loud bang and shouting.

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A lawyer for Monis told the Australia Broadcasting Corporation that he was likely acting alone:

His former lawyer, Manny Conditsis, said Monis was an isolated figure who was acting alone.

"His ideology is just so strong and so powerful that it clouds his vision for common sense and objectiveness," he said.

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Man Haron Monis, 49, has been charged with being accessory to his ex-wife's murder. Has also sent abusive letters to dead soldiers parents.

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Police have identified the gunman:

.@nswpolice spokewoman said no barrier to identifying gunman. He is self-styled Sheikh Haron Monis

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Here's how some front pages presented the hostage situation:

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At least 3 videos that appear to be Sydney hostages reading attacker's demands appear on social media #SydneySiege

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The attacker has turned out the lights in the cafe, Sky News reported.

Witnesses described seeing the hostages looking "exhausted" and "absolutely petrified" - but as night fell and the siege entered its 12th hour the gunman turned off the lights, meaning people outside could no longer see in.

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An updated map of the Sydney exclusion zone around the hostage site at Martin Pl. #sydneysiege

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Prominent members of Sydney's Muslim community have released a joint statement following the siege:

Some Australians are offering to travel with people wearing religious attire by using the hashtag #IllRideWithYou.

If you reg take the #373 bus b/w Coogee/MartinPl, wear religious attire, & don’t feel safe alone: I’ll ride with you. @ me for schedule.

Over 6,500 #illridewithyou tweets already - currently 198 Tweets per minute - god love you Sydney

I’m a semi regular commuter on the #mandurah line. If you see me #illridewithyou. I’ll be wearing this scarf.

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New South Wales Premier Mike Baird and Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione have held a joint news conference together. Scipione said:

Can I start by saying our plan, our only goal tonight and for as long as this takes, is to get those people that are currently caught in that building, out of there safely. That remains our number one priority and nothing will change.

NSW Police: “We are doing all we can to set you free”. Message to hostages #SydneySiege

Mike Baird has asked people who work near Martin Place to work from home tomorrow:

Premier of New South Wales asks people based in offices near Lindt café to work from home tomorrow #sydneysiege

Scipione refused to comment on reports that the lights had been turned off inside the Martin Place cafe.

NSW Police Commissioner is not commenting on reports that lights have been turned off in the Martin Place, Sydney, cafe. #SydneySiege

He said no one appears to have been injured in the siege.

New South Wales Police Commissioner Scipione says no-one appears to have been injured in hostage crisis - live video

Scipione said that NSW Police are currently dealing with just one location in the crisis.

NSW Police: “We are only dealing with one location [in #MartinPlace]. We are not concerned about any other location. #SydneySiege

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ABC News have reported that the police have identified the gunman. He is known to New South Wales Police, but they have asked media not to identify him.

Police have identified who the gunman is. He is known to police. NSW Police have asked the ABC not to identify him #sydneysiege #abc730

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In a press conference, New South Wales Deputy Police Commissioner Catherine Burn said that the priority is for the siege to "end peacefully." She repeatedly refused to respond to "speculation" regarding the hostage-taker's demands.

NSW Police #SydneySiege update: “Our priority is for the siege to end peacefully."

NSW Police: "“We cannot engage in speculation, but we are monitoring all forms of communication” #SydneySiege

NSW Police: “We have a large police response in place. We have this situation contained.” #SydneySiege

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Prime Minister Tony Abbott has just made a second statement on the siege, saying the situation is "profoundly shocking."

PM Tony Abbott has just provided an update on #SydneySiege. Here's the transcript:

View this video on YouTube / Via ABC News
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The New South Wales Police Force released a statement saying, "We are operating according to our Counter Terrorism protocols" in dealing with the hostage situation:

Latest update re: @nswpolice operation at #MartinPlace

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Two women were seen leaving the cafe, meaning five people have now escaped the hostage situation.

An absolutely harrowing image of a woman, panic on her face, just running as hard as she could. Five now escaped. #sydneyseige

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Here is the moment two people escaped from the cafe through its front doors.

Incredible images coming out of Martin Place as three men escape hostage situation. More here:

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Deputy Police Commissioner Catherine Burn has now confirmed that three hostages have left the cafe.

"We do not have any information that suggests that anybody is harmed at this stage," she said.

"We have our police negotiators on site. They are some of the best in the world and we are very fortunate that we have these police dealing with the matter at the moment."

She would not go into detail about how many people remain in the cafe, but did say police have now made contact with the hostage-taker.

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A man who appeared to be a Lindt cafe worker was filmed running out of an emergency exit door and into the protection of waiting police.

Reporters on the scene say they have seen two other people emerge from the front door of the cafe with their hands up.

Two came out front door of Lindt cafe. One out fire door. They had hands in the air. Appear to be safe. #sydneysiege

#BREAKING: Three people have been RELEASED from within the besieged cafe in Martin Place, Sydney. #SydneySiege

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This picture from Channel 7 shows a man wearing a headband emblazoned with writing who was said to be directing the hostages.

Hostages, their faces blurred, can be seen with their hands up in the windows.

Here is a clearer look at the black flag with Arabic writing. The text reads "There is no God but Allah" and "Mohammed is the messenger of God."

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The Grand Mufti of Australia, the top Islamic leader in the country, has released a statement, condemning the siege.

"The Grand Mufti and the Australian National Imams Council condemn this criminal act unequivocally and reiterate that such actions are denounced in part and in whole in Islam," Professor Ibrahim Abu Mohamed said in a statement.

"We along the wide Australian society await the results of the investigation about the identity of the perpetrators and their underlying motivations behind this criminal act.

"The Grand Mufti and the Muslim community express their full support and solidarity with the victims and their families and aspire to a peaceful resolve to this calamity."

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The Australian Broadcasting Corporation has released this video of comments from Prime Minister Tony Abbott, NSW Premier Mike Baird, and Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione.

View this video on YouTube
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The owners of the Lindt cafe have released a statement on the hostage drama on Facebook.

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The Daily Telegraph tabloid has released a special afternoon edition as the siege continues.

Despite the newspaper's headline, police have not said how many hostages are being held. Nor have they determined that ISIS, or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, is involved.

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BuzzFeed News reporter Mark Di Stefano is among the crowd being held back by police in Martin Place.

Things getting ugly... A racist bloke yelling at rest of the crowd, "Muhammed is a pedophile, rapist" #sydneysiege

Police are now having to deal with multiple idiots. This guys just tried to break the police line #sydneysiege

The crowd is full of mouthy young men and old crazy racists. Many have travelled here. Really bringing worst out of Sydney #sydneysiege

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The Indian and New Zealand prime ministers are among the world leaders who have responded to the siege.

The incident in Sydney is disturbing. Such acts are inhuman & deeply unfortunate. I pray for everyone's safety.

I’ve contacted Prime Minister @TonyAbbottMHR to let him know our thoughts are with the people of Australia today.

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In a statement to BuzzFeed News, Uber explained why it introduced surge pricing during the Sydney siege.

We are all concerned with the events happening in Sydney.

Uber Sydney will be providing free rides out of the CBD to help Sydneysiders get home safely.

Our thoughts are with those affected and the NSW Police Force.

We are in the process of refunding rides. If you have been charged during these hours leaving the CBD please email

Please note that surge pricing only remains in place to encourage more drivers to come online and pick up passengers from the area.

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New South Wales Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione told reporters the motivation for the siege is still being determined.

"I can confirm for you that we have an armed offender in premises holding an undisclosed number of hostages," Scipione said.

The head of the state's police said the siege hasn't been classified as a terrorist attack, but that the security response is consistent with such a scenario.

"We are at this stage continuing to secure and make sure that we are doing all we can to bring this to a peaceful outcome," he said. "We want the matter resolved peacefully and we will do all we need to do to ensure that."

Police are also yet to establish direct contact with the armed man.

Scipione also said police were working to learn more about the flag hostages have been forced to hold in the store's windows.

"We're trying to work out what it stands for but at this stage it's probably best that I don't take that any further," he said. "We're working with our partner agencies to better determine what it is we're dealing with there."

State Premier Mike Baird said he had full confidence in the police handling the operation.

"We are being tested today in Sydney," Baird said. "The police are being tested, the public is being tested, but whatever the test we will face it head on and we will remain a strong democratic, civil society."

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Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is among those tweeting about the siege.

Canada's thoughts and prayers are with our Australian friends. #MartinPlace #SydneySiege

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All courts in central Sydney have been shut for the day as a result of the ongoing police operation.

All Sydney CBD courts are closed for the day.

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Uber has reportedly introduced surge pricing in the Sydney CBD, charging users a minimum $100, during the current hostage crisis.

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The U.S. Consulate, which is located in a high-rise building in Martin Place, has been evacuated, BBC News reported.

The US Consulate in #Sydney has been evacuated - Statement via @PaulNBlake

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At the White House, President Barack Obama has been briefed on the siege in Sydney, according to the Washington, D.C., correspondent for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

WH now confirming with me President Obama HAS been briefed on #sydneysiege by Homeland Security and Counterterrorism chief Lisa Monaco

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Prime Minister Tony Abbott has briefly addressed reporters at Parliament House in Canberra.

"We don't yet know the motivation of the perpetrator," Abbott said, before going on to discuss "politically motivated violence."

"We have to appreciate that even in a society such as ours, there are people who would wish to do us harm," he said. "That's why we have police and security organizations of the utmost professionalism that are ready and able to respond to a whole range of situations and contingencies including this situation that we are now seeing in Sydney."

"The whole point of politically motivated violence is to scare people out of being themselves," Abbott told reporters. "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."

"This is a very disturbing incident," Abbott concluded. "I can understand the concerns and anxieties of the Australian people at a time like this, but our thoughts and prayers must above all go out to the individuals who are caught up in this."

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The Leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten has released a statement on the siege:

Our thoughts and prayers today are with the innocent people involved in this morning's incident in Martin Place, Sydney.

Our thoughts are also with their families who are seeing this incredibly distressing situation unfold, along with the rest of Australia.

I have full confidence in the skill and professionalism of our police and security agencies.

I have spoken to Prime Minister Tony Abbott this morning and offered him the Opposition's full support at this time.

Australians can be assured that we are one when it comes to keeping Australians safe.

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Police are using ladders to evacuate people in offices above the cafe.

People evacuating via small ladders (above the Lindt cafe) #sydneysiege #MartinPlaceSiege Photo by@John__Donegan

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Terrorism expert Dr Anne Ali has spoken to Australia's Nine News.

Terrorism expert Dr Anne Ali: "They are flying the Shadada flag.. It's been co-opted by terrorists around the world"

Dr Ali: "Shahada has been hijacked and coopted... It's actually really significant flag, emotional, for Muslims"

Dr Ali message for those hostage takers inside: "What you are doing is not Muslim.. you are making things worse for Australian Muslims"

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New South Wales police have released a statement on the siege:

There is a police operation underway at Martin Place. Police and emergency services have responded and a number of streets around the area have been closed. The Martin Place train station is also shut.

Police are dealing with an armed incident and specialist officers are attempting to make contact those inside a cafe.

Some nearby offices have been evacuated as a precaution. Anyone else in the area encompassing Hunter, George, Elizabeth and Macquarie streets bordering Martin Place is directed to remain indoors and away from open windows. Anyone in the vicinity but outside that area is free to leave their buildings.

Police urge members of the public to remain calm and note that an appropriate police presence is in place.

Police urge the media to be responsible in their reporting. Speculation can cause unnecessary alarm.

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The premier of New South Wales, Mike Baird, said on Twitter that he has full confidence in his state's police to handle the situation.

1/2 My thoughts and prayers are with those affected by the situation in Martin Place & NSW Police who are trained to deal with these events.

2/2 I’ve spoken to Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione & have full confidence NSW Police are working effectively to resolve the situation.

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For non-Australians, Martin Place is located in the heart of Sydney's central business district and is home to many large shops, companies, and banks.

The square stretches over several city blocks and is usually flooded with tourists and business people on a weekday morning.

The U.S. consulate is also located in a building in the square, as is the Reserve Bank of Australia, and the New South Wales state parliament is located nearby.

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Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has released a statement on the hostage crisis:

New South Wales Police and the Australian Federal Police are currently responding to a reported hostage-taking incident in Martin Place in Sydney.

I have spoken with NSW Premier Mike Baird and offered him all possible Commonwealth support and assistance.

The National Security Committee of Cabinet has also convened for briefings on the situation.

This is obviously a deeply concerning incident but 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.

We will provide regular updates as further information becomes available.

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Air Services Australia has now told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that Sydney's airspace remains open.

.@AirservicesNews says #sydney airspace OPEN, air services operations continuing. #siege #martinplace

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The Sydney Opera House has reportedly also been evacuated, and planes were said to be avoiding the area.

Here's a photo of the #sydney airspace around the CBD #martinplace #siege @abcnews @abcnews24

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The black-and-white flag in the Sydney cafe featured the shahada, the statement of Islamic faith reading in Arabic, "There is no god but the God, Muhammad is the messenger of the God."

The flag held up by hostages was not the flag used by ISIS, shown here with a group of Iraqi fighters.

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Workers in nearby buildings have been evacuated. The normally busy square, popular with tourists and business workers, is completely empty.

The central Sydney newsroom for Channel 7, one of Australia's most prominent television stations, is located directly across from the road from the cafe.

As you can see this is happening right opposite Australia's most central newsroom, Channel 7. All been evacuated.

Buses and trains are also being diverted from the area.

Buses diverting in the Sydney CBD. Passengers advised to avoid the CBD due to a police operation at Martin Place .

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BuzzFeed's Mark Di Stefano is on the scene of the hostage crisis in central Sydney. Here's a map showing where the chocolate shop/cafe is located.

For those who don't know Sydney, red dot where Lindt Cafe hostage situation taking place... dozens of people inside

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Hostages have been seen displaying a black flag against the shop window.

Here's a photo of a flag being displayed by hostages in the Sydney cafe, photo via @morningshowon7

Terrifying photo of hostages in Martin Place in Sydney, being held by men waving an ISIS flag

Hostages being forced to hold up Islamic State flag in Lindt cafe in Martin place! #MartinPlaceSiege #BreakingNews

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