‘Islamist’ gunman holds hostages in Sydney cafe siege

A gunman with links to Islamist State is holding dozens of staff and customers hostage at a cafe in Sydney, Australia.

As many as 30 hostages are thought to be held by the gunman who stormed into the Lint cafe in Sydney city centre holding a gun.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the attack was "profoundly shocking"

Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the attack was “profoundly shocking”

The gunman forced crying women to hold a black Islamic flag up to the window as he held a shotgun. Five people have escaped from the building which is surrounded by armed police. Officers have made contact with the gunman.

Witnesses described how the man, wearing a headband with Arabic writing across it, walked into the Lindt cafe in Martin Place and produced a shotgun from a blue bag shortly before 10am local time.

Hostages were seen with their hands pressed against the windows holding up the Shahada flag belonging to the extremist group Jabhat al-Nusra.

Media representatives have swarmed the scene in Sydney city centre, where the 'Islamist' gunman is holding up to 30 people hostage

Media representatives have swarmed the scene in Sydney city centre, where the ‘Islamist’ gunman is holding up to 30 people hostage

Five hostages have escaped from the Lindt cafe

Five hostages have escaped from the Lindt cafe

Police say they are confident of a peaceful resolution

Police say they are confident of a peaceful resolution

The police are in contact with the gunman

The police are in contact with the gunman