A major incident is being played out in Central Sydney Australia where a lone gunman named by local media as Sheik Man Haron Monis, aged 49, 'known to police and the media' is reportedly armed with a pump action shotgun and claiming to be a part of ISIS - Islamic State, and allegedly in control of four bombs - with possible remote detonation. Two devices are reported to be inside the Café, and the remaining two somewhere in the 'Commercial sector' of the City.
The hostage taker is holding some 15 to 40 hostages at the busy Lindt 'chocolate' Café in Martin Place, near the main Railway station, and adjacent to the Channel 7 TV newsroom. Armed Police in combat dress, trained negotiation teams are all in place, as are security services.
A wide cordon has been thrown around the City. Neighbouring buildings are being vacated, to ensure a sterile environment. Dozens of ambulances are discreetly parked up in side streets, and a very full press briefing by Australia Police Deputy Commissioner Catherine Burn has just been completed (something our own police media people might like to copy).
|Café worker escapes through rear emergency exit |
into the arms of waiting police
Five of the hostages have (by 8am UK time and 19:00 hrs in Australia) escaped. Australian TV and radio channels have cleared programming to carry the Sydney Siege.
The café is encased in glass so most of the interior can be seen from outside. A number of hostages are being used as a human shield with arms raised and pressed against the picture windows. A later development is the appearance of a black 'Islamic Declaration of Faith' flag in Arabic held up against the glass by the hostages. Ironically placed just above a Merry Christmas greeting signwritten directly onto the glass windows.
Police confirmed they are in contact with the hostage taker but progress in terms of understanding his demands are not clear and negotiations painfully slow.
The situation is very fluid, the gunman is using a female hostage as a close human shield, knowing that at any one moment several rifles will be trained upon him. Australia raised the threat level in September and reportedly a number of very public arrests have been made in connection with ISIS.
JULIAN BRAY 01733 345581, Journalist, Broadcaster, Aviation Security & Operations, Travel / Cruise Industry Expert, EQUITY, NUJ, Broadcast ISDN 01733 345020 SKYPE: JULIAN.BRAY.UK e&oe > Updates are on the Website