A hostage runs to armed tactical response police officers for safety after she escaped from a cafe under siege at Martin Place in the central business district of Sydney, Australia, Monday, Dec. 15, 2014. (AP/Rob Griffith)
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Australian police locked down the center of the country's biggest city Monday after an armed man walked into a busy downtown Sydney cafe, took hostages and forced them to display an Islamic flag, igniting fears of a jihadi attack.Police said they knew of one armed assailant involved in the incident at the Lindt chocolate cafe in the heart of Sydney's financial district, but there could be more. Police, including paramilitary officers, cordoned off several blocks around the cafe as negotiators tried to defuse one of the biggest security scares in Australia for decades. At least five hostages have been released or escaped since the mid-morning siege began, with terrified cafe workers and customers seen running into the arms of paramilitary police. About 15 hostages could still be seen inside the cafe, said Chris Reason, a reporter at Channel Seven, whose office is opposite the cafe. In September, anti-terrorism police said they had thwarted an imminent threat to behead a random member of the public and days later, a teenager in the city of Melbourne was shot dead after attacking two anti-terrorism officers with a knife.India's parliamentary affairs minister said an Indian IT professional may be among the hostages.
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