Police in Sydney Australia surrounded a cafe in the city’s central business district on Monday morning after a gunman took dozens of hostages.
A black and white flag with Arabic writing on it was seen raised up to a window and television cameras also caught the image of the suspected gunman.
It’s not known how many people are being held in the Lindt Cafe in Martin Place – its chief executive said it could be as many as 40.
Scores of police and a SWAT team were quickly deployed. No contact is said to have been made with the gunman.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who has warned of militant plans to attack Australian targets, convened a meeting of the cabinet’s national security committee for a briefing.
“We have to appreciate that even in a society such as ours there are people that would wish to do us harm. That’s why we have police and security organisations of the utmost professionalism,” said the Australian prime minister in a statement aimed at reassuring the public.
Office workers in the immediate vicinity were evacuated before the whole area was put under lockdown.
Australia which is backing the United States and its action against Islamist militants in Syria and Iraq, is on high alert for attacks by radicalised Muslims or by home grown fighters returning from the conflicts.
There have been several suspected bomb threats and the Sydney Opera House was temporarily closed after a suspicious package was found.