SYDNEY SIEGE: Five hostages run out of Sydney cafe hostage situation

DECEMBER 15, 2014

Australian Police confirmed Monday that five people had managed to escape from the Lindt Chocolat Café in Central Sydney where at least one armed gunman has taken several people hostage and forced two people to hold a black flag bearing Islamic slogans written in Arabic in the store's window.

Two more hostages escaped after about three people were earlier on seen on live video footage bolting out of the door past heavily-armed police and then disappearing around a corner.

New South Wales Deputy Police Commissioner for Specialist Operations, Catherine Burn, confirmed to reporters that the three had escaped, though authorities did not immediately know how they had done so.

Burn said that the first priority was the wellbeing of the people who escaped, after which police would question them to gain more information about the situation inside the Lindt Chocolat Cafe.

"We do not have any information that suggests that anybody is harmed at this stage," she told reporters.

The escapes occurred almost six hours into a standoff that has closed off part of the central business district in Australia's largest city.

Burn also said that police had made direct contact with the gunman, but did not know his motivation and were not sure how many people were being held inside.

The incident began about six hours ago when a gunman stormed into the busy Lindt Chocolat Café in Martin Place. Police arrived shortly after being alerted to the siege by one of the women hostages.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott  told reporters in Canberra; "We don't yet know if this is politically motivated, although there are some indications that it might be...this is a very disturbing incident. I can understand the concerns and anxieties of the Australia people.”

Photo caption: Two people to hold a black flag bearing Islamic slogans written in Arabic in the Lindt Chocolat Café's window.