Sydney hostage crisis: As it happened

An armed man on Monday took undisclosed number of people hostage at a popular cafe in Sydney and displayed an Islamic flag with Arabic script in the window, sparking a security alert in Australia.

Sydney hostage crisis: As it happened

6:00 am Sydney time (12:30 am IST) Latest media release by the NSW Police confirms the death of three people. Following is the text of the release - A critical incident investigation has been launched after three people died and four others were injured during a police operation in Sydney’s CBD this morning. About 2.10am (Tuesday 16 December), a confrontation occurred between police and a man who had taken a number of people hostage inside a café on Martin Place. Shots were fired during the confrontation. As a result, the 50-year-old man was pronounced dead after being taken to hospital. Another man, aged 34, and a woman, aged 38, were pronounced dead after being taken to hospital.

5:30 am Sydney time (12 am IST) Meanwhile, some Australian media have reported that police have confirmed that the gunman was killed as the Sydney siege came to an end. Reports also said that not one but two other people may have been killed but there has been no confirmation.

5:00 am Sydney time (11:30 pm IST) India's PM Narendra Modi tweets - "Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Sydney and Australia. We stand shoulder to shoulder with them during these testing times."

3:55 am Sydney time (10:20 pm IST) As per reports two people may have died in the Sydney siege. One of them may be gunman Haron Monis.

3:10 am Sydney time (9:50 pm IST) The hostage crisis in Sydney is over. Vishwakant Ankit Reddy is safe. He is undergoing some medical check ups and will be back home soon, says External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj. His father also said that he came out safe and was ok.

02:35 am Sydney time (09:30 pm IST): According to the CNN, the hostage taker gunman is believed to be dead. Injured hostages are being treated in the nearby hospitals.

02:20 am Sydney time (09:15 pm IST): After over 16 hours of hostage drama, the siege at Sydney's Lindt chocolate cafe came to an end, the New South Wales police confirmed. 


02:05 am Sydney time (09:00 pm IST): In a very important development, Australian police are said to have stormed into the cafe, Australian state broadcaster​ reports. Also, gunfire was heard near the site of hostage crisis and TV visuals from Australian news channels showed one of the hostages being taken on stretchers. Some reports said that two have been shot and few injured in the process. 

02:00 am Sydney time (08:55 pm IST): Its 2:00 pm in Sydney and according to the latest reports, more hostages have managed to escape from the cafe. TV visuals showed some hostages running out from the cafe with their hands up.

01:45 am Sydney time (08:40 pm IST): According to a BBC report, the former lawyer of Iranian self styled cleric has said that he is an isolated figure, who was acting alone. It can be noted that in September, Australian PM Tony Abbott had warned about "lone-wolf terror attacks" in the country. The PM's warning was followed by major terror raids in Sydney and Brisbane to foil an alleged plot by Islamic State jihadists to carry out "demonstration killings".

Also Read: Australian PM warns of `lone wolf` terrorism

01:35 am Sydney time (08:30 pm IST): According to an IB Times report, the self styled Iranian cleric was facing a number of charges including the one where he was charged with being an accessory to the murder of his ex-wife and mother of two children. 

In what paints him as a regular sex offender, the Iranian has also been "charged with over 50 allegations of sexual assault during his time as a "spiritual healer" who dabbled in black magic in western Sydney", the report adds.

01:05 am Sydney time (08:00 pm IST): As the gunman in Sydney cafe crisis has been identified, more dark details about him continue to tumble out. According to reports, Sheikh Man Monis is a 49-year-old self styled cleric who is well known to Australian authorities and is right now on bail facing a number of charges.​

12:45 am Sydney time (07:40 pm IST): Reports have revealed the gunman staging Sydney hostage crisis has been identified as an Iranian refugee named Man Haron Monis and that he has a history of criminal convictions. According to Australia's Nine News Sydney, the Iranian was born as Manteghi Bourjerdi and fled from Iran to Australia in 1996 where he changed his name to Man Haron Monis and assumed the title of Sheik Haron.

11:05 pm Sydney time (06:00 pm IST): The armed gunman reportedly wants the hostages to refer to him as a "Brother" and says that he would release a hostage if an ISIS flag is delivered to him, a hostage who managed to escape told channel 10 TV, reports the Xinhua.

Reports also cited the escapees as saying that the gunman is said to have planted four bombs - two inside the cafe and two elsewhere in the city

11:05 pm Sydney time (06:00 pm IST):  In the wake of Lindt cafe hostage crisis, wherein an armed gunman forced hostages to stand with an Islamic flag pressed against the window, there have been fears regarding possible reprisal attacks against Muslims. However, Australian netizens have come out in full support of the Muslims and a Twitter campaign with the hashtag #illridewithyou has gone viral with tens of thousands of tweets.

Australia's non-Muslims are tweeting that they will travel alongside Muslims to fight the fear of any reprisal attacks in public transport.

10:30 pm Sydney time (05:25 pm IST):  Earlier reports said that the police has identified the gunman and he is already known to them. However, the police has asked the media not to make his identity public, reported the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC).

10:25 pm Sydney time (05:00 pm IST): In the wake of the hostage crisis at Lindt cafe, authorities have brought some "minor changes" into the transport routes as some roads will remain closed around Martin Place.

9:55 pm Sydney time (04:30 pm IST): The New South Wales Government has announced that an exclusion zone will continue to operate around Martin Place bordered by Elizabeth St, St James Road, Macquarie St and Hunter St.

"If you work in this exclusion zone, please work from home unless otherwise advised," the Govt said.

9:25 pm Sydney time (04:00 pm IST): Even as an armed gunman continues to hold people hostage in Sydney's Lindt cafe, a similar situation is said to be developing in Belgium where four armed men have entered an apartment in the Belgian city of Ghent and authorities have closed the surrounding area.

According to reports, some four men have barged into an apartment and are holding one male hostage but it is not clear if the situation has any link to the ongoing Sydney cafe hostage siege. 

9:10 pm Sydney time (03:45 pm IST):  Meanwhile Uber cabs in Sydney have posted a tweet saying they would be providing free trips from CBD  in the wake of hostage crisis at Lindt cafe.

8:55 pm Sydney time (03: 30pm IST):  The Ministry of External Affairs has issued a statement saying that it is in contact constant touch with Australian authorities, and that they have significantly beefed up the security.

"At this stage, It's best we allow Australian authorities to do their work and keep us informed, we will continue to monitor situation​," Syed Akbaruddin, MEA spokesperson said.

8:40 pm Sydney time (03: 15 pm IST): Hailing the job of police and security personnel in the wake of "disturbing" cafe crisis, Australian PM Tony Abbott has said that it has been a difficult day for Australia, but like "all other situations,  we have risen to the challenge".

8:35 pm Sydney time (03:10 pm IST): Meanwhile an estimate of how many are holed up inside the cafe has come from the CEO of Lindt. According to the BBC, Lindt CEO says there are 10 staff and around 30 customers in the cafe where hostages were seen pressed against windows, with some holding up the flag of the Islamic testament of faith, the Shahada.

8:25 pm Sydney time (03: 00 pm IST): IT company Infosys has issued a statement confirming that one of its employees is trapped as a hostage inside Sydney's Lindt chocolate cafe. Earlier, Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu had also talked about an Indian IT professional being held as one of the cafe hostages.

"We can confirm that one Infosys employee is among the hostages at the Lindt Cafe in Sydney.The family of the employee has been informed and we are extending all possible support to them in this difficult time", said the Infosys in a statement.

Infosys added that it was "in the process of confirming the whereabouts of all our other employees in the city". "We are in constant touch with the local authorities and Indian Consulate in Sydney for updates on the situation on ground," read the Infosys statement.

8:20 pm Sydney time (02:55 pm IST): Commissioner Andrew Scipione started by saying that the main "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."

However, he refused to comment about the possible motive behind the incident, saying "We are not in the business of speculating, we are in the business of investigating."

He also urged people to stay away from indulging in any reprisal attacks, saying, "Clearly reprisal attacks are something that should not happen. At this stage, we need to let everyone just settle down."

8:16 pm Sydney time (02: 56 pm IST):  NSW premier Mike Bird says, "I'm certainly proud of how we have responded as a city, state and a nation – but my thoughts remain with those that are caught in this event. And my call goes out to the state to pray for them, to pray for their families."

"Earlier tonight the commissioner and I also had a conference call with the Islamic leaders. They expressed their full confidence and support with what the NSW police are doing, and the commissioner and I thank them for it."

8:15 pm Sydney time (02:45 pm IST): NSW police commissioner Andrew Scipione and premier Mike Bird are addressing a joint press conference right now.

8:10 pm Sydney time (02:45 pm IST): Chris Reason, a reporter from 7 News Sydney whose newsroom is located just across the targeted cafe, has been live tweeting all what he can see from inside his Martin Place Newsroom, revealing details of the events happening inside the cafe. According to his latest tweet, lights in the cafe have gone off, making it difficult for him to divulge further details. 

He earlier tweeted how the gunman was seen agitated and shouting at other hostages when five of the captives managed to escape. He also informed that at one point, he could see food being brought from the kitchen and being delivered to the hostages. 

He also said that the gunman was rotating hostages, forcing them to stand against windows, sometimes 2 hours at a time. The gunman according to him is "unshaven and is seen donning white shirt and a black cap, holding poss pump action shotgun".

7:55 pm Sydney time (02: 30 pm IST): Contradicting his earlier statement, Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu has refused to confirm the presence of any Indian inside Sydney's Lindt chocolate cafe. He however added that according to the latest information, all the hostages held inside the cafe were said to be safe. He further urged people to show restraint calling it a "sensitive matter".

7:20 pm Sydney time (01: 55 pm IST): British PM David Cameron in a tweet has expressed his concern about the event in Sydney's Lindt cafe, saying his "thoughts are with all those caught up in it".

7:05 pm Sydney time (01:40 pm IST): Catherine Burn  however confirmed that five hostages have been released and "are now being assessed to make sure their health is okay and then police will talk to them". She refused to give any specific details about the number of hostages present inside the cafe.

7:00 pm Sydney time (01:35 pm IST): Currently New South Wales deputy police commissioner Catherine Burn is holding a press conference live. She has refused to confirm the demands put forward by the hostage taker, saying that the police is negotiating with the gunman and "We cannot engage in speculation".

6:50 pm Sydney time (01:25 pm IST): Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu has said that an Indian too, is held hostage inside Sydney's Lindt Chocolate Cafe, adding that he is an IT professional. Naidu added that the Ministry of External Affairs is in touch with the embassy for any further information.

Also Read: Sydney hostage crisis: BJP urges to fight it with unity

Also, the Indian External Affairs Ministry has provided a contact number - that of Dr Vinod Bahade Dy Consul General - phone +61 481 453550 for any queries on Indian nationals in the wake of Sydney hostage crisis.

6:40 pm Sydney time (01:15 pm IST): The latest information coming from Sydney's cafe targeted by an armed gunman is that the hostage taker has contacted three media outlets via the hostages and put forward two demands - an ISIS flag and a phone call with Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, reported the Sky News Australia.

6:30 pm Sydney time (01:05 pm IST): In contrary to prior reports that ruled out the possibility of any Indian being present inside the cafe, fresh inputs suggest there may be one Indian trapped in the hostage crisis in Sydney.

6:20 pm Sydney time (12:55 pm IST): In the wake of the hostage crisis at Sydney's Lindt Cafe,  tonight's Opera House performances have been cancelled.

"In light of the situation in the CBD today, we have decided to cancel tonight’s performances at the Opera House. This is to minimise pressure on transport networks and to provide as much notice as possible to staff and patrons," the Sydney Opera House said in a statement on the Facebook.

5:55 pm Sydney time (12:30 pm IST): One of the #MartinPlaceSiege hostages who escaped is reportedly being treated in hospital, tweets Channel 7 News Sydney.

5:25 pm Sydney time (12 noon IST): The New South Wales Police confirms it is treating Sydney siege as a terror attack.

5:15 pm Sydney time (11:50 am IST): 9 News Australia reports that a young hostage, who is an apprentice plumber, has managed to send an SMS to his mother saying: "I'm okay mum".

5:00 pm Sydney time (11:30 am IST): Two more hostages have been seen running out of the Lindt cafe. Five hostages have come out so far from the cafe.

Also Read: Five hostages run out of Sydney siege cafe

4:44 pm Sydney time (11:14 am IST): India's National Security Adviser Ajit Doval is monitoring situation in Sydney in view of Indian cricket team's ongoing Australia tour. Meanwhile, security of Indian cricketers has been beefed up in Brisbane.

Also ReadSydney hostage crisis: Indian cricketers' security increased in Brisbane

4:33 pm Sydney time (11:03 am IST): For those seeking information about Indians in Sydney, the External Affairs Ministry has set up a helpline. 

3:56 pm Sydney time (10:26 am IST): NSW Police Deputy Commissioner Catherine Burn confirms three hostages have made it out of the Lindt cafe at Martin Place in Sydney. However, she could not confirm the number of people remaining inside the cafe. "A peaceful resolution will be what we are working for," she says, adding: 

3:41 pm Sydney time (10:11 am IST): Three hostages run out of the besieged Lindt cafe in Sydney, reports AFP, a news agency.

3:40 pm Sydney time (10:10 am IST): Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj speaks to the Indian envoy in Canberra on hostage crisis in Sydney and was briefed about incident.

Also Read: Sushma Swaraj seeks details about Sydney hostage taking

3:34 pm Sydney time (10:04 am IST): The Australian National Imams Council, commenting on the siege at a Sydney cafe, "condemns this criminal act unequivocally". The joint statement with the Grand Mufti of Australia said that "such actions are denounced in part and in whole in Islam".

Also Read: Australian National Imams Council condemns Sydney siege

3:30 pm Sydney time (10:00 am IST): The Indian Home Ministry calls an emergency meeting in the wake of the hostage crisis in Sydney. 

3:15 pm Sydney time (9:45 am IST): Lindt Chocolate Cafe Australia, on its Facebook post, says it is "deeply concerned over this serious incident". Read full post here​.

3:14 pm Sydney time (9:44 am IST): A news agency has quoted sources as saying that the Indian Consulate in Sydney has been evacuated as a standard precautionary measure and the High Commission in Canberra is in touch with Indian organisations.

2:20 pm Sydney time (08:50 am IST): There are no Indians inside the Lindt cafe, suggest sources from Indian consulate in Sydney. 

2:16 pm Sydney Time (08:46 am IST): Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi took to microblogging website Twitter to describe the incident as "disturbing".

Also Read: PM Narendra Modi condemns hostage crisis in Australia

2:02 pm Sydney Time (08:32 am IST): Scipione further says police had not had direct contact with the armed offender.

Also Read: One gunman, undisclosed number of hostages in Sydney siege: Police

2:00 pm Sydney Time (08:30 am IST): In a press conference, police say one armed man is holding an undisclosed number of hostages in a siege in Sydney. It was yet to be deemed a terrorism event, adds New South Wales state police commissioner Andrew Scipione.

1:55 pm ​Sydney Time (08:25 am IST): We will fight it head on and we will remain a strong society, says New South Wales Premier Mike Baird while addressing the media. 

1:51 pm Sydney Time (08:21 am IST): The United States has evacuated its Sydney Consulate, which is located near the Lindt cafe. The consulate has also issued an emergency warning to US citizens in Sydney, urging them to "maintain a high level of vigilance and take appropriate steps to enhance your personal security".

Also Read: US Consulate near hostage cafe evacuated, security warning issued

1:50 pm Sydney Time (08:20 am IST): In a statement, New South Wales state police says: "Police are dealing with an armed incident and specialist officers are attempting to make contact with those inside a cafe.”

1:45 pm Sydney Time (08:15 am IST): Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Westpac Banking Corp and Australia and New Zealand Banking Group have shut their Sydney CBD branches after a number of hostages were taken in a central city cafe.

Also Read: Australia's major banks close Sydney CBD branches due to hostage crisis

1:40 pm Sydney Time (08:10 am IST): Reports say anywhere between a dozen and 50 people were in the Lindt cafe. Several are seen with their arms in the air.

1:30 pm Sydney Time (08:00 am IST): TV pictures are showing a flag -- black with white Arabic writing -- held to a window by customers at Lindt chocolate cafe. It 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."

1:20 pm Sydney Time (07:50 am IST): US President Barack Obama has been briefed about the situation at a cafe in Sydney where hostages were being held and an Islamic flag had been displayed, says a White House official. Lisa Monaco, the President`s top counter-terrorism advisor, had spoken to Obama about events in the Australian city, adds the White House official.

12:45 pm ​Sydney Time (07:15 am IST): "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," says Tony Abbott.

Also Read: Australian PM calls for calm amid Sydney hostage situation

12:10 pm Sydney time (06:40 am IST): Sydney Consul General Sunjay Sudhir confirms that the office has been shut because of security concerns. "Sydney Indian Consulate is 400 metres away from the Lindt cafe," Sudhir tells a news agency, adding the Central Business District (CBD) is the area where many Indian establishments like SBI, Bank of Baroda and Indian tourism office are located. "We are in touch with the security agencies and have asked them specifically if any Indians were among the hostages...They have not told us about the nationality (of the hostages)," Sudhir adds.

11:35 am Sydney Time (06:05 am IST): Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott convenes a national security meeting to deal with the unfolding drama. 

11:32 am Sydney Time (06:02 am IST): "The police are responding to an incident at the Opera House," a New South Wales police spokeswoman told AFP. Reports say the Opera House had been evacuated.

11:30 am Sydney Time (06:00 am IST): Australian authorities are dealing with an "incident" at Sydney`s Opera House, police says, without elaborating on whether it was related to an ongoing siege at a nearby cafe. According to reports, a suspicious package has been found at the Opera House. It is not clear if the two incidents were related.

11:00 am Sydney Time (05:30 am IST): Australia has been on high alert after the government raised concerns that citizens who have fought alongside jihadists in Iraq and Syria could return home radicalised and capable of carrying out attacks.

10:55 am Sydney Time (05:25 am IST): Patrick Byrne, a producer at Channel Seven whose newsroom is opposite the cafe, says staff at the television station watched the situation unfold. "We raced to the window and saw the shocking and chilling sight of people putting their hands up against the panes of glass at the cafe," he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

10:50 am Sydney Time (05:20 am IST): Witnesses report hearing loud bangs that sounded like gun shots.

10:45 am Sydney Time (05:15 am IST): Reports say as many as 20 people were in the cafe and that there were at least two gunmen, although police had no immediate comment, only confirming that an operation was underway.

10:30 am Sydney Time (05:00 am IST): Hostages are being held inside a cafe in central Sydney with a siege underway and an Islamic flag held up to a window, reports and witnesses said.

Martin Place in the central business district was shut down as scores of police surrounded the Lindt Chocolat Cafe, with TV pictures showing a flag, black with white Arabic writing, held to a window.  



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