A Possible hostage situation in Sydney this morning where five people have been seen fleeing from a cafe in the heart of Sydney in which a dramatic hostage taking is unfolding Monday.
But an unknown number of people remain in the cafe, held by at least one armed hostage taker.
Hundreds of police officers have shut down a usually bustling area in Australia’s most populous city amid the crisis.
Chilling images from local media showed people, believed to be hostages, with their hands pressed against the glass of the Lindt Chocolate Cafe in Sydney’s central business district.
Footage showed them holding up a black flag with Arabic writing on it that reads: “There is no God but God and Mohammed is the prophet of God.”
Three people who were seen running out of the cafe “are now out of the building and they are now with police,” said New South Wales Police Deputy Commissioner Catherine Burn, declining to give details about whether they escaped or were let go.
Video from CNN affiliate Seven Network later showed two more people running out of the cafe.
Authorities said many of the details about the situation remained unclear, including the number of people inside the cafe and the motivations of the hostage taker.
“We don’t know whether this is politically motivated, although obviously there are some indications that it could be,” Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott told reporters.
The Islamic writing on the banner stoked fears that the crisis in Sydney could be linked to extremists. Australia, which is part of the international coalition fighting the terrorist group ISIS in the Middle East, said in September that it had foiled a plot by Islamic militants to carry out a public execution.