A woman is believed to have raised the alarm at 9.44am when she saw a man outside the cafe carrying a blue sports bag with a gun inside.
There are reports that there could be two gunman inside the cafe, although police have not confirmed this.
Terrified customers in the cafe could be seen holding an Islamic flag—which is black with white writing on it—up against the glass window. The flag appears to be a Shahada flag, not an Islamic State flag, but is associated with Islamist and jihadist movements.
(Megan Levy, ‘Police clear Martin Place after gunman holds hostages at Lindt Chocolat Cafe’, Sydney Morning Herald, 15 Dec. 2014)