SYDNEY, (Dec 15) — Police have closed down central Sydney on Monday after an armed man took up to 40 hostages at a busy cafe, Xinhua news agency reported.
The hostages have been forced to hold a black and white Islamic flag on the cafe window.
A police media spokeswoman confirmed officers are attending the scene and an operation was underway surrounding the Lindt Chocolate cafe.
Lindt Australia chief executive officer Steve Loane told news.com.au he believes there are about 40 people inside the cafe, including customers and staff.
According to local radio, the gunman has told police negotiators that they have planted “devices” all around Sydney and demanded to talk to Prime Minister Tony Abbott.
Local nearby streets have been closed and all trains are shutdown near the area. Police officers have guns drawn outside the cafe.
Police have also evacuated the Sydney Opera House and shut down traffic on the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
The Australian Federal Government has convened a meeting of the National Security Committee this morning. It has been warning for months that a terror attack in Australia could happen.
New South Wales police commissioner Andrew Scipione told reporters that police are doing all they can to resolve the situation peacefully.
He said there are tight controls around the location, and they had not made contact with the gunman.
Scipione said police still did not know the gunman’s motivation and are working to determine where he was from.
He said police presence is “very heavy” and involved hundreds of police officers.
Prime Minister Abbott said after the September terror raids that all that is required for a domestic Islamic State ordered terror attack is a “knife, iPhone and a victim”.