A lone gunman kept terrified staff and customers captive into Monday night in a downtown Sydney cafe, brandishing an Islamic flag, as five of his hostages managed to flee for their lives. Here are 10 latest developments in the crisis so far.
5 people escape Sydney cafe in hostage crisis
Five people, three men and two women, have fled the Lindt cafe in Martin Place in Sydney.
One Infosys employee is among hostages at Lindt Cafe
Indian IT company Infosys said on Monday that one of its employees was among hostages being held at a cafe in Sydney.
Belgian police: 4 armed men enter house in Ghent
Meanwhile, among the ongoing Sydney hostage crisis, reports are coming that four armed men have entered an apartment in the western Belgian city of Ghent, and police have blocked off a wide perimeter around the area. Police said that it was still unclear what the intention was and there was no information available either about the armed men who entered the apartment block or whether they had taken hostages.
Hostage situation politically motivated: PM Tony Abbott
Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who has warned of militant plans to strike Australian targets, said there were indications the hostage situation at the cafe was politically motivated.
“This is a very disturbing incident. I can understand the concerns and anxieties of the Australian people,” Abbott told reporters in Canberra, without providing any information on the siege.
The hostage-taker has warned that four bombs have been planted around the city.
Gunman appears to be in his late 40s to 50s
The gunman appears to be in his late 40s to 50s, wearing a bandanna. TV footage showed.
Police have identified the gunman but asked media not to publish his name.
Muslim groups jointly condemn Sydney siege
More than 40 Australian Muslim groups jointly condemned the siege and the use of the flag, which they said had been hijacked by “misguided individuals that represent no-one but themselves”.
Martin Place is Sydney’s financial centre
The scene of the drama, Martin Place, is Sydney’s financial centre and houses several prominent buildings, including the New South Wales parliament, the US consulate, the country’s central bank and the Commonwealth Bank of Australia.
20 Australian militants have died fighting in Iraq and Syria
More than 70 Australians are believed to be fighting for Islamic militants in Iraq a Syria. At least 20 have died.