Hostages Are Being Held at Chocolate Shop in Sydney & Police Fear Islamic Terrorism

A gunman suspected to be an Islamic terrorist is reportedly holding an unknown number of hostages inside of a chocolate shop in Sydney, and Australian police are unsure of his motivation. The incident began at 9:45 a.m. local time on Monday, when a man carrying a gun and a bag entered a Lindt Chocolate Cafe in the crowded shopping district Martin Place and held workers and customers hostage. He reportedly claimed "political motivation," according to Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott, and placed a black flag used by Islamist terrorist groups in the window -- but has yet to officially declare the frightening siege a terrorist attack. At one point during the siege, five hostages were seen running away from the cafe, but it's unclear whether they escaped or were released.

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A representative from Lindt confirmed that there were 10 employees and 30 customers inside of the cafe at the time of the siege. Workers in nearby offices were told to leave the premises; others were asked to stay indoors and away from windows.

About six hours after the suspect took control of the shop, three people were seen running from the building. They were followed by two more hostages about one hour later.

The gunman is reportedly someone familiar to police, though they are not releasing his name. He allegedly forced his hostages to call media outlets and use their own personal social media accounts to rattle off a list of his demands, but police have asked that media outlets not publicize those demands.

What makes this story so incredibly terrifying is that it's still developing. It's now nighttime in Sydney, and the gunman has reportedly turned off the lights in the shop. He can apparently be seen pacing back and forth past the cafe's windows and is making hostages stand for hours in front of the window, at times holding up the black flag, which features the Shahada written on it -- the Islamic declaration of faith.

Up to 100 heavily armed police are reportedly surrounding the cafe. Our hearts are with those terrified hostages, and we hope this horrific situation is resolved soon and that everyone emerges safe from the siege.

What do you suspect are the gunman's demands?

 

Image via Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

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