Sydney siege: Hostages taken in Martin Place Lindt cafe

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Sydney siege: Hostages taken in Martin Place Lindt cafe; black flag hung in window

Ascreengrab apparently showing a jihadi flag being flown inside the LindtChocolat Cafe. Photo: Channel Seven

  • 20 held hostage

  • Air space over Sydney's CBD shut down

  • Trains disrupted

  • State Parliament shut to public

  • Do you know more? Email us or message us on Twitter @smh

Hostagesare being forced to hold an Islamic flag against the window of the LindtChocolat Cafe in Martin Placeafter at least one gunman stormed the premises.

About 20staff and customers are being held at gunpoint inside the cafe.

Ascreengrab showing a hostage inside the shop. Photo: ABC News 24

A number ofpeople could be seen through the windows with their hands held in the air.

Policeconfirmed an operation was under way at the shop in Martin Place.

A NSWPolice spokeswoman said officers were called to the shop about 9.45am onMonday. She urged people to stay away from Martin Place.

Emergencyservices at the scene. Photo: JAMES ROBERTSON/Fairfax

Police withguns drawn in Martin Placein a screengrab. Photo: Channel Seven

A woman isbelieved to have raised the alarm at 9.44am when she saw a man outside the cafecarrying a blue sports bag with a gun inside.

There arereports that there could be two gunman inside the cafe, although police havenot confirmed this.

The cafe isright in the middle of the banking and retail district, and is usually packedwith Christmas shoppers at this time of year.

The ChannelSeven newsroom, which faces Martin Place, has been evacuated and the air space over Sydney's CBD hasbeen shut down.

The networkwas originally running a live-stream of the siege, but was asked to take itdown for security reasons.

StateParliament, which is one block away from the cafe, has also been closed to thepublic.

Terrifiedcustomers in the cafe could be seen holding an Islamic flag - which is blackwith white writing on it - up against the glass window. The flag appears to bea Shahada flag, not an Islamic State flag, but is associated with Islamist andjihadist movements.

Trainsbetween Central and Bondi Junction were initially stopped, but the TransportManagement Centre said services resumed about 10.45am. However trains will notstop at Martin Place.

JournalistChris Kenny, who was in the shop about 20 minutes before the siege began, saidhe understood the automatic glass sliding doors had been disabled.

"I did speak to a couple of people who saw a bit more of this unfold thanI did," he said.

"One woman said she tried to go into the shop just after I came out withmy takeaway coffee but the doors wouldn't open.

"So obviously whoever is doing this has disabled the automatic glasssliding doors to stop anyone else going in and she said immediately she couldsee there was a weapon.

"She mentioned it being taken out of a blue bag and people were straightaway asked to put up their hands."

A man whogave his name only as Bruno said he'd worked in the cafe for six months.

"I wassupposed to start at 10am," he said while visibly shaken.

That wasabout 15 minutes after the seige started and he was unable to get inside.

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