Sydney siege

How terrifying it must be for the hostages in the Lindt café in Sydney, those who know them and those trying to help them.

After an update from NSW Deputy Police Commissioner Catherine Burn, this is what is known now about the Martin Place hostage crisis:

  • Burn says the situation is now a “negotiation” and the police intend to pursue it “peacefully.”
  • Burn will not say whether the five people to emerge from the cafe escaped or were released.
  • The crisis may continue into tomorrow. An exclusion zone is in place around the Lindt Cafe and Martin Place.
  • The police will not confirm what the gunman is asking for. Nor will they confirm how many people remain in the building. . . .

Five hostages have escaped from the café.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has urged people to go about their business as usual:

. . . “We don’t yet know the motivation of the perpetrator, we don’t know whether this is politically motivated although obviously there are some indications that it could be,” Mr Abbott said.

“We have to appreciate that even in a society such as ours, there are people who would wish to do us harm. . .

Hostages were being forced to hold an Islamic flag against the window of the Lindt Chocolat Café in Martin Place after at least one gunman stormed the premises on Monday morning.

“This is a very disturbing incident. I can understand the concerns and anxieties of the Australian people at a time like this, but our thoughts and prayers must above all go out to the individuals who are caught up in this,” Mr Abbott said.

“I can think of almost nothing more distressing, more terrifying than to be caught up in such a situation and our hearts go out to these people.”

Mr Abbott said NSW police responding to the unfolding siege were receiving strong support from Commonwealth agencies.

“The whole point of politically motivated violence is to scare people out of being themselves. Australia is a peaceful, open, and generous society,” Mr Abbott said.

“Nothing should ever change that and that’s why I would urge all Australians today to go about their business as usual.” . .

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said the government is monitoring the Sydney siege:

“Our hearts go out to those involved and our thoughts are very much with them and their families,” says Mr Key.

Prime Minister John Key contacted Prime Minister Tony Abbott directly to offer a message of support, shortly after the siege got underway today.

Currently, agencies are unable to confirm the nationalities of those involved, including whether any New Zealanders have been caught up in this situation.

Authorities in New Zealand and Australia will continue to stay in close contact as events unfold and facts become clearer. . .

It is almost impossible to guard against fundamentalists motivated by misguided beliefs.

The challenge is to be vigilant and prepared without unduly restricting the freedom of the majority who are innocent and pose no danger.

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