“This does not happen,” says a CNN news anchor, hours after an emotionally unstable man took over the Lindt chocolate café at Martin Place in downtown Sydney.
The ‘uncommon’ situation, with flashing emergency/authority lights, while the lights inside were shut off, has ended, according to police.
Approaching fifteen hours in, the standoff appeared to be one launched for the purpose of propaganda by the hostage taker. It had been reported that the man alerted to the outside not to detonate an explosive.
Entering morning, local time, the identity of one of the hostage s was released by police—an unstable man with a criminal history, and a half-minute gun battle erupted. An alarm went off, and more hostages escaped. Medical attention arrived at scene. In all, two hostages and the gunman were killed.
Among the three fatalities: Tori Johnson, 34, who was shot while attempting to wrestle the gun out of the gunman’s hand, ran the café for two years; and Katrina Dawson, 38, a barrister and mother of three.
All of the remaining of up to forty hostages got out. There is no word that the man had deliberately released anyone. Some were injured and treated, including a police officer for a shot pellet wound. Most were unharmed.
At least fifteen hostages were pressed up against the glass door windows. According to reports, the hostage taker may have separated the hostages into two separate groups.
One hostage was hospitalized for a pre-existing condition. St. Vincent’s spokesman David Faktor said the man, in the hospital’s emergency department, is in satisfactory condition.
One man within the building can be seen carrying a large weapon, presumably a semi or fully automatic. At least one hostage was used as a human shield. A man with a backpack and vest could be seen walking around inside the café, speaking behind the glass doors of the building.
Hundreds of police were flooded into the area, and streets were closed, according to the Associated Press. Snipers were put on rooftop(s), and offices were evacuated, including those of the Channel Seven Morning Show while on air. The U.S. consulate, also within the district and just one block away, was evacuated, with everyone accounted for (safe).
TV camera footage shot through the windows shows two people holding up a black flag with the Shahada written on it. Many jihadis have used the Shahada—or “there is no God, but Allah and Muhammad is His messenger” faith—in their own black flag.
“We have not yet confirmed it is a terrorism-related event,” said New South Wales state Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione. “We don’t know whether this is politically motivated, although obviously there are some indications that it could be. … Police have been in attendance and have controlled the situation from very early this morning.”
The two inside asked for an ISIL flag, and to talk to the Aus. Prime Minister. There is no doubt that this siege marks the use of terrorism, whether or not a known group was involved.
In a September recording, ISIL spokesman Al-Adnani told Muslims to kill all “disbelievers,” whether they be civilians or soldiers. (Killing civilians, however, is in violation of the Quran.) Islamic State, which now holds a third of Syria and Iraq, known for numerous recorded beheadings, has urged, in audio recordings, for “lone wolf” attacks, inciting Islamic terrorism. Australia was included among the targets.
Social media played a significant role in this standoff, as people within the store were encouraged by the man to communicate with the outside, much for the promotion of effect/terrorism in the act; one of the hostage taker was using a social media device himself, and then that of hostages. Videos used for propaganda that were taken down were put up again under another name. The 49-year-old man with a twisted past wanted the most coverage, and he got it.
The hashtag #SydneySiege appeared quickly after the siege began. Lindt Australia posted a message on its Facebook page thanking the public for its support, even though some people on the street(s) took selfies.
Australian Muslim groups condemned the siege. A full statet letter was published effective immediately. In short, “This is a time for all Australians to stand together.”
“There is much to be done,” said Scipione in a subsequent presser. He said that his department was told “no one’s been injured, and if that, then we are … grateful.” He asks people with tips to call the national security hotline.
In other news, Uber, the taxi/private car/rideshare service, has raised its rates in Sydney, at least temporarily, due to the standoff. There has/had been a social media backlash.
Numerous sources were used in the gathering and verification of this information.