SYDNEY (AP) — An apparent hostage situation was unfolding inside a chocolate shop and cafe in Australia’s largest city on Monday, where several people could be seen through a window with their hands held in the air.
New South Wales state police said they were dealing with “an armed incident,” though they would not confirm hostages were being held inside the cafe. But television footage shot through the cafe’s windows showed several people with their arms in the air and hands pressed against the glass.
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“Specialist officers are attempting to make contact (with) those inside a cafe,” police said in a statement.
TV footage showed two people inside the cafe holding up what appeared to be a black flag with white Arabic writing on it. It was not immediately clear what the flag said. Heavily armed officers were lined up outside the cafe.
A police spokeswoman said no injuries had been reported from the incident.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the National Security Committee of Cabinet met to be briefed on the situation.
“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,” Abbott said in a statement.
The cafe is located in Martin Place, a plaza in the heart of the city’s financial and shopping district that is packed with holiday shoppers this time of year. It is home to the state premier’s office, the Reserve Bank of Australia, and the headquarters of two of the nation’s largest banks. The state parliament house is a few blocks away.
Streets in the area were closed, offices evacuated and the public told to stay away.