Sydney – Three people ran out a fire exit of a Sydney cafe where a gunman took an unknown number of people hostage at the height of Monday morning rush hour.
Two people inside the cafe were seen holding up a flag believed to contain an Islamic declaration of faith.
New South Wales Police Deputy Commissioner Catherine Burn confirmed that the three people “have now emerged from the location” where the hostage crisis was unfolding.
“We do not have any information that suggests that anybody is harmed at this stage,” she said.
The three people were seen on live video footage bolting out of the door past heavily armed police and then disappearing around a corner.
The development came six hours after a gunman entered the Lindt Chocolat Cafe 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. Many of those inside the cafe would have been taken hostage as they stopped in for their morning coffees.
Hundreds of police flooded into the area, streets were closed and offices evacuated. The public was told to stay away from Martin Place, 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.
Television footage shot through the cafe’s windows showed several people with their arms in the air and hands pressed against the glass, and two people holding up what appeared to be a black flag with white Arabic writing on it.