A frightening scene continues to unfold a day after armed gunmen — and suspected terrorists — took dozens of civilians hostage inside a Lindt Chocolate Shop and Cafe in Sydney, Australia. The hostage situation began on Sunday at around 10 a.m. local time when a man seen carrying a blue bag entered the cafe. Soon after, operations inside the cafe ceased and the doors were locked, according to Vox. Several hostages were then seen holding up a black flag with white Arabic script up to the window. The Guardian reports that the script says, "There is no god but the God, Muhammad is the messenger of God."
UPDATE 12:30 p.m.: As Vox first reported, police have stormed the Sydney cafe where a single gunman, Man Haron Monis, held numerous people hostage over the past 16 hours. Authorities are not yet aware if there have been any deaths or injuries to the hostages. See a video of the scene unfolding here.
According to several reports, so far five hostages, including several Lindt employees, have fled the cafe or were released. Most of the surrounding area, which includes many government buildings as well as the Sydney Opera House, have been evacuated. Vox notes that the hostage-takers have claimed to have "devices all over the city."
The situation is as disturbing, if not more-so, than the events that transpired when the Boston Marathon was the scene of a terrorist attack in the Spring of 2013. Though over twenty restaurants closed in the days following the attack, many Boston restaurants offered aid to workers and wounded alike. In 2012, protesters in Lebanon set fire to several American fast food restaurants as part of politically-motivated demonstrations in the region. Sydney businesses appear to be sticking together as this tragedy unfolds.
Lindt, the Swiss chocolate company, operates cafes and chocolate shops across the globe. The company released a statement regarding the crisis on Facebook:
We would like to thank everyone for their thoughts and kind support over the current situation at the Lindt Chocolate Café at Martin Place. We are deeply concerned over this serious incident and our thoughts and prayers are with the staff and customers involved and all their friends and families. The matter is being dealt with by the authorities and we are waiting for any updates from them.
Watch a news clip on the situation below: