Sydney (CNN) — A gunman holding hostages in a Sydney cafe is said to be demanding an ISIS flag and a phone call with Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott.
The reported demands emerged after five hostages managed to flee the building, leaving an unconfirmed number of people still trapped inside during a standoff that has lasted more than 12 hours so far.
Hours into the siege, the gunman’s requests were made through hostages who contacted several media organizations, CNN affiliate Sky News Australia reported.
Police said they were aware of the reports but declined to confirm what demands had been made.
Amid the crisis, hundreds of police officers, some of them armed with sniper rifles, shut down a usually bustling area in Australia’s most populous city.
Police: Hostage safety is our top priority Australian Police: We have had contact
MAP: Sydney CBDMAP: Sydney CBD
“We are doing all we can to set you free,” New South Wales Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione said at a news conference Monday, directing his comments to the hostages and their loved ones.
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.” That flag was different from the one used by the terrorist group ISIS.
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