Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott called for calm after a gunman took up to 12 hostages in Sydney’s city center this morning.
“New South Wales (NSW) Police and the Australian Federal Police are currently responding to a reported hostage taking incident in Martin Place in Sydney,” Xinhua quoted Abbott as saying.
“I have spoken with NSW Premier Mike Baird and offered him all possible Commonwealth support and assistance.”
“The National Security Committee of the Cabinet has also convened for briefings on the situation,” said the prime minister.
“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,” he added.
Abbott also confirmed that the federal government would provide further updates as further information becomes available.
Australia’s top Muslim cleric has condemned the Sydney cafe hostage taking, saying it is “denounced in Islam”.
Ibrahim Abu Mohamed, the country’s grand mufti, said the Muslim community was “devastated” by the hostage situation, where an armed man, showing Islamic flags, took over 30 as hostages in the Lindt Chocolate Cafe in Martin Place, Xinhua reported.
“The grand mufti and the Australian National Imams Council condemn this criminal act unequivocally and reiterate that such actions are denounced in part and in whole in Islam,” a statement said.
Sydney’s Muslim leaders earlier met to offer help to authorities in the face of the unfolding hostage drama.
Until now, five hostages have escaped from the cafe.