The gunman who was holding an undisclosed number of hostages at a Sydney cafe reportedly demanded that an Islamic State flag be delivered to him, according to various media accounts.
Hostages were forced to hold a black flag with Arabic writing against a window at the Lindt Chocolate Cafe in Sydney.
According to various media reports, the flag appears to be the Shahada known as the profession of faith in Islam.
Britain’s The Telegraph reports that the flag says, “There is no god but Allah; Mohammed is the Messenger of Allah.”
Australia’s Channel 10 Eyewitness News, citing two of the hostages, revealed that the gunman was demanding to talk to Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbott and for an Islamic State (IS, ISIS, or ISIL) flag “to be directly delivered to the cafe.”
The hostages also revealed that the gunman claimed to have planted four bombs around the city.
“The black flag with the Islamic writing on it and the fact that it seems to be one person in a low-tech, high-impact operation is consistent with what Islamic State has been urging its supporters to do,” Clive Williams, a former Australian military intelligence officer, told Canada’s National Post.
He identified the flag as the Shahada.
The National Post reports that the Al-Nusrah Front is among the jihadist groups who use the Shahada flag. Al-Nusrah, is the main al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria. It is listed as a terrorist group by the United States.
Heavily armed police officers stormed the cafe, ending the hostage siege. The number of casualties has not been officially disclosed. Australia’s Sky News reports that two people, including the gunman, have been killed.
However, the police have not confirmed any casualties.
Police did confirm the hostage-taker’s identity as Man Haron Monis, an Iranian national in his 50s with a criminal past. He is also known as “Sheikh Haron” or “Ayatollah Manteghi.”