comScore Man Haron Monis Takes Hostages in Australia LIVESTREAM VIDEO

Gunmen with Terrorist Flag Take Hostages in Australian Café (LIVE VIDEO)

Australia is on alert tonight as one or more gunmen have taken at least a dozen people hostage inside the Lindt Chocolate Café in Sydney. Channel Seven got a look at a flag that was being set up at the café, purporting to belong to the terrorist group Jabhat al-Nusra:

The café is located in Martin Place, a major shopping complex, that police have shut down as the threat is ongoing. They also warned residents living near the area to stay indoors and avoid being near windows.

The Australian police commissioner said tonight in a presser they’re treating the situation “consistent with a terrorism threat” and the situation is contained for the moment.

There is an unconfirmed report that the captor or captors requested to speak directly with Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

UPDATE — 10:30 P.M. ET: President Obama has been briefed on the situation.

UPDATE — 11:05 P.M. ET: Lindt Chocolate Café has posted this message to its Facebook page:

We would like to thank everyone for their thoughts and kind support over the current situation at the Lindt Chocolate Café at Martin Place. We are deeply concerned over this serious incident and our thoughts and prayers are with the staff and customers involved and all their friends and families. The matter is being dealt with by the authorities and we are waiting for any updates from them.

You can watch a livestream below from ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) News:

You can watch the press conference below:

UPDATE — 9:45 A.M. ET Monday: CNN is reporting that the flag reads, “There is no God but God and Mohammed is the prophet of God.” Overnight, 5 people were seen escaping from the cafe, which reportedly irritated the gunman and caused him to start “screaming orders” at the other hostages. CNN also reported that U.S. intelligence officials have identified the gunman and are working with Australian authorities to gather more information about him.

In addition, ABC News is reporting the identity of the gunman: Man Haron Monis, an alleged sexual predator and an Islamic “sheikh” who emigrated from Iran in 1996.

Every country has idiots…

Watch people escaping below, via ABC:

More ABC US news | ABC World News

Watch an update on the situation below, via CNN:

UPDATE — 10:35 A.M. ET Monday: Police have stormed the cafe, and a shootout has ended the 16-hour siege. “A number of people” were reportedly hit by gunfire. Some reports indicate that the gunman is dead and there has been an explosion and heavy gunfire. See the following tweets and CNN’s report below:

UPDATE — 10:50 A.M. ET: New South Wales Police confirmed that the siege is over.

[image via screengrab]

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Josh Feldman is a Senior Editor at Mediaite. Email him here: [email protected] Follow him on Twitter: @feldmaniac