LIVE STREAM – LIVE BLOG: Sydney Siege – Gunman Takes Hostages In Cafe [UPDATED 9:26PM ET]

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UPDATE 9:26PM EST: US Consulate in Sydney issues emergency message to US citizens to “maintain a high level of vigilance”

UPDATE 9:21PM EST: White House official: President Obama briefed on hostage situation in Sydney, Australia.

UPDATE 8:45PM EST: US officials briefed on #sydneysiege, only know of 1 armed suspect, number of hostages unknown – via @ShimonPro.

UPDATE 8:42PM EST: US Consulate in Sydney has been evacuated and US Citizens there being warned to be on high alert.

UPDATE 8:35PM EST: @NSWPolice Website Has Crashed Due To Traffic. They Released The Following Statement:

UPDATE 8:34PM EST: One man has been arrested near the scene but it is not related to the siege.

UPDATE 8:25PM EST: Lindt’s CEO says there could be as many as 50 hostages inside the cafe.

UPDATE 8:20PM EST: Australian PM Abbott convenes with the National Security Committee. Will make statement soon.

UPDATE 8:15PM EST: Prime Minister @TonyAbbottMHR will hold press conference at 12.30pm local time. (About 15 Minutes)

UPDATE 8:04PM EST: The Terrorist appears to be middle-aged man wearing a bandana with Islamic lettering.

It is being reported that two gunmen have taken several people hostage at a cafe in the Australian city of Sydney.

Pictures on Australian television showed people with their hands up against a window, and a black flag with Arabic writing.

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At least a dozen police officers are surrounding the site and the area is currently closed off.

UPDATE 7:52 PM EST: Unconfirmed reports of 2 gunman pacing the cafe holding one hostage and using the civilian as a human shield.

UPDATE 7:41 PM EST: The following is a statement from PM Tony Abbott:

New South Wales police and the Australian federal police are currently responding to a reported hostage-taking incident in Martin Place in Sydney.

I have spoken with NSW Premier Mike Baird and offered him all possible Commonwealth support and assistance.

The National Security Committee of Cabinet has also convened for briefings 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.

We will provide regular updates as further information becomes available.

Update 7:29 PM EST: 702 ABC Sydney’s John Donegan says “CBD roads that are not blocked are absolutely gridlocked”. Police are “doing sweeps”

Update 7:22 PM EST: There are helicopters flying above the area which is the reason for the ‘No Fly Zone’ An official rebuffed the rumor that there is a total ‘No Fly Zone’ over Sydney City.

Update 7:03 PM EST: There are 13  hostages in the cafe.  The count includes employees and customers. At approximately 9:44 AM, a man carried  a blue bag into the busy Sydney cafe and told the people behind the counter that he had a gun. The doors to the cafe were then locked by a second Islamic terrorist. The flag which the hostages are holding  up appears similar to the ISIS flag however it is a Shahadah flag which states that Allah is the only ruler. This has been ruled an act of terrorism.

Pictures on Australian television showed people with their hands up against a window, and a black flag with Arabic writing.

At least a dozen police officers were surrounding the site and the area was closed off.

There were also reports that a person was seen inside the cafe waving an Islamic State flag.

Police confirmed an operation was under way at the shop in Martin Place.

Check back for updates.

 

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