Reports indicated at least 13, possibly as many as 20 hostages, may be inside the Lindt Chocolat Cafe which is part of the Martin Place shopping complex. Reports are also circulating that the Sydney Opera House (map) which is only1.2 km from the site (map) of the hostage-taking (directions), is being evacuated as a precaution after a suspicious package was apparently seen on-site. The airspace above the city has also been closed to air traffic to allow law enforcement helicopters to operate unfettered.
My already-scheduled weekly CTV News Channel segment, Clicked In, with Scott Laurie, was quickly restructured to instead focus on the events unfolding in Sydney. We spoke about the role that technology plays in events like this, and how social media both helps and hinders law enforcement's efforts to bring things to a safe end.
Update 1: Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has released the following statement:
"New South Wales Police and the Australian Federal Police are currently responding to a reported hostage-taking incident in Martin Place in Sydney.Update 2: The PM will be holding a press conference at 8:30 p.m. Eastern, 12:30 p.m. local time. Key comments from the press conference:
I have spoken with NSW Premier Mike Baird and offered him all possible Commonwealth support and assistance.
The National Security Committee of Cabinet has also convened for briefings on the situation.
This is obviously a deeply concerning incident but all Australians should be reassured that our law enforcement and security agencies are well trained and equipped and are responding in a thorough and professional manner.
We will provide regular updates as further information becomes available."
- We don't yet know the motivation of the perpetrator. We don't know whether this is politically motivated, although obviously there are some indications that this could be.
- The whole point of politically motivated violence is to scare people out of being themselves
- Australia is a peaceful, open and generous society. Nothing should ever change that, and that's why I would urge all Australians today to go about their business as usual.
- This is an unfolding situation and as the situation unfolds there will be operational updates provided by the NSW Police.
- I want to assure people that the ordinary business of government must go on. And it will go on.
- This is a very disturbing incident. I can understand the concerns and anxieties of the Australian people at a time like this.
- I do urge everyone to exercise caution in their reporting.
Update 4: Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has shared his thoughts via Twitter:
Canada's thoughts and prayers are with our Australian friends. #MartinPlace #SydneySiegeForeign Minister John Baird has also weighed in:
— Stephen Harper (@pmharper) December 15, 2014
We continue to monitor the situation in #Sydney closely. I've been in touch with @JulieBishopMP and expressed our thoughts and prayers.Update 5: Mashable reporting Uber has implemented surge pricing in Sydney. Can we say ripoff?
— John Baird (@HonJohnBaird) December 15, 2014
As #sydneysiege unfolds, @Uber surge pricing kicks in. Uncomfortable example of market forces at work. @mashable http://t.co/EFEcbl9UKdRelated Links:
— John Sinclair Foley (@johnsfoley) December 15, 2014
- Live feed, ABC News 24 (Australia)
- BBC News Australia live page
- New South Wales Police Twitter account, @NSWPolice
- Reddit Live real-time coverage
- The Telegraph live blog
- Twitter hashtags: #SydneySiege, #MartinPlace