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Live television footage in Sydney estimates that there are 13 hostages in the Lindt Chocolate Café in Sydney, Australia. Their hands are pressed against the windows, where a black and white flag with Arabic letters is visible.

While initially reported as an ISIS flag, ITV has reported that the text translates as "There is no God but Allah and Mohammed is the messenger of God." And that it is not specifically linked with that particular terrorist group.

Australia is backing the United States in its action against ISIS in Syria and Iraq. Armed police have closed off the surrounding area, which includes the Reserve Bank of Australia. Trains and buses have halted after a train operator said there was a bomb threat called in at Martin Place. Airspace over the area has also been closed. 

According to Business Insider, the man, armed with a shotgun, have made demands to speak to "a senior Australian public figure" and warn that bombs have been placed at various locations in the city. That report, however, has not been verified.

Local officials are concerned that the armed man might be part of a home-grown Muslim faction that has returned from the Middle East. 

UPDATE: Prime Minister Tony Abbott addressed reporters, and said security agencies had not detected any additional plots but that there are citizens in Australia with the "intent and capability" to carry out a terror attack. Abbott said there will be "more security" at airports, ports, military bases, public buildings and large public events.

"Normal life in Australia can and must go on," Abbott said.


Confirmation from police that three hostages have been released. #SydneySiege

— Maria Lewis (@moviemazz) December 15, 2014



BREAKING @SkyBusiness: @ljayes : #sydneysiege flag: "There is no god but Allah and Mohammed is the messenger of god".

— Carson Scott (@carsonscottLIVE) December 14, 2014

BREAKING: First photo of middle-aged hostage-taker, who is wearing a black bandana while conducting the #SydneySiege.

— Jack Moore (@JFXM) December 15, 2014

NSW Premier Mike Baird says his thoughts and prayers are with the people in the #sydneysiege.

— ABC News (@abcnews) December 15, 2014

Breaking: Sydney On Lockdown as Dramatic Siege Unfolds #sydneysiege

— Mother Jones (@MotherJones) December 15, 2014

[via ITV]