A suspected Islamist gunman was holding hostages inside a chocolate shop in Sydney on Monday and appeared to be making demands to negotiators through Facebook, YouTube and local news media. Five hostages managed to flee the scene of the attack, which terror analysts said had all the hallmarks of an ISIS-inspire lone-wolf attack.
Chris Reason, a journalist with NBC News’ Australian partner Channel 7, said the hostage-taker was “forcing them to stand against windows, sometimes two hours at a time.”
As the standoff entered its 13th hour, New South Wales Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione said nobody appeared to have been injured.
“We have the very best negotiators in the world on the job right now,” he told reporters. “Our plan, our only goal tonight is to get those people that are currently caught in that building out of there safely. For those that may be in that building rest assured we are doing all we can to set you free.”
Asked about reports that hostages were being forced to use Facebook and YouTube to pass on the gunman’s demands, Scipione said: “There’s no place on earth that doesn’t have access to social media. Our plans are built around that.”
He said police were in “contact” with the hostage-taker but added “the means by which we’re communicating is something we’d rather keep close to our chest.”
Scipione said reports of bomb threats in other parts of Sydney had been investigated but there not did not appear to be a danger. “We are only at this stage dealing with one location we are not concerned at this stage about any other,” he added.
The drama began shortly after 9:45 a.m. local time (5:45 p.m. ET Sunday). Lindt Australia Chief Executive Steve Loane told Sky Business there were “probably 30 customers” in the cafe and 10 workers. Police refused to confirm the numbers involved.
Africa stands with Sydney in this trying times. Our prayers are with the families and friends of the hostages. Islamic terrorism is an enemy to all.