Hostages held in Sydney cafe siege

At least one gunman is holding staff and customers hostage at a cafe in the Australian city of Sydney, the BBC reports.

The Lindt cafe in the central business district is surrounded by armed police.

Five people have been seen running from the building. It is not clear how many hostages remain inside. Police say they have made contact with the gunman.

PM Tony Abbott described the attack as “terrifying” and said it could be politically motivated. A black Islamic flag has been displayed at the window.

“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,” he said.

Speaking in Canberra, Mr Abbott added: “Australia is a peaceful, open and generous society – nothing should ever change that and that’s why I would urge all Australians today to go about their business as usual.”

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