Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.


Nightmare before Christmas in Sydney

15 December 2014, 12:57

Sydney - It is one of the most popular cafes on a thoroughfare that is thronged at this time of year with festive shoppers, in addition to everyday office crowds and tourists.

But on Monday, a pre-Christmas nightmare played out inside the Lindt cafe on Sydney's Martin Place, while outside the crowds had evaporated, replaced by police lines and tension, as businesses shut early.

"It's kind of shocking for everyone," said local worker Goldie Jamshidi near the chocolate-themed cafe where a gunman had taken several people hostage, brandishing an Islamic banner above a Lindt store sign and the words "MERRY CHRISTMAS".

"I came to work and then I found out that this incident had happened," she said.

By the evening five people had fled the building, two of them young women wearing Lindt aprons who raced out and into the arms of police officers.

Officers wearing black SWAT-style uniforms had earlier taken up position, eyes staring down rifle sights. Some onlookers took photos to post on social media, others shook their heads in disbelief.

Australia had long seemed far removed from the hubs of Islamist extremism. But the Lindt hostage-taker's use of the Islamic banner lent weight to suspicions that the threat had come home to roost despite a stepped-up security posture of late.

The government in September raised its terror threat level and police conducted raids across the country, as authorities fretted that dozens of Australians who have fought alongside jihadists in Iraq and Syria could return home radicalised and inflict "lone wolf" attacks.

"It's kind of overwhelming, especially after the drama a few months ago about the talk of a beheading at Martin Place," said office worker Rebecca Courtney.

That referred to an order purportedly issued by the most senior Australian recruited by Islamic State for "demonstration killings" in Australia, including beheading a random member of the public.

Afghan-born Mohammad Ali Baryalei, reportedly a former nightclub bouncer and aspiring actor, was said by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in October to have died in fighting overseas.

At that time in October, the government urged young Australians not to become radicalised as it defended new "foreign fighter" legislation designed to prevent citizens from travelling overseas to take part in conflicts.

"It's sad to think this is my home and that it could happen anywhere," Courtney told AFP from close to the police cordon.

While the motives behind Monday's siege were not known, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the signs pointed to a political dimension.

"All the shops around us are closed for safety," said Marian Chung, general manager of a tourist outlet selling stuffed kangaroos and koalas and which is a stopping point for organised tours.

"But we can't close as some of our customers are from overseas and they have bookings here."

At the nearby Sydney Opera House, where police swept the area earlier Monday, evening performances were cancelled.

In the days and weeks before Christmas, Sydney's shopping district usually takes on an extra vigour as people buy presents for the festive season. Martin Place, with its huge Christmas tree, is a magnet for families.

But Chung said she had lost about 30 percent of her usual revenue at her store, Kogaroo: Gift from Australia, on Monday because of the road and store closures as the city went into lockdown.

One business accused of profiteering from the hostage crisis was web-based taxi firm Uber, which is no stranger to controversy around the world.

Initially, Uber was said to have begun charging passengers four times regular fares with a minimum charge of Aus$100 (US$82) to leave Sydney's central business district. "What a shameful disgrace," wrote Twitter user Tyson Armstrong.

The company later issued a statement saying it "will be providing free rides out of the CBD to help Sydneysiders get home safely" and that it was "in the process of refunding rides". 

For the latest on national news, politics, sport, entertainment and more follow us on 
Twitter and like our Facebook page!



Read News24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Read more from our Users

Submitted by
S Mbinya
Kenyans demand action after femal...

This comes a few days after a female passenger was drugged and then robbed in a matatu plying the Kenyatta – Kencom route. Read more...

Submitted by
S Mbinya
Natural aphrodisiacs to boost lib...

It is advisable to take them before sex in order to achieve maximum benefit. Read more...

Submitted by
Man defiles girlfriend’s daughter

The two-year-old girl sustained serious injuries due to the forceful penetration. Read more...

Submitted by
Bernard Lugagah
How your birth order affects your...

Mismatched birth orders may be the simple reason you and your significant other don’t seem to get along.  Read more...

Submitted by
Jayne Zack
Raila has lost his remaining bull...

He added that Jubilee and Cord are like day and night. Read more...

Submitted by
Gabriel Ngallah
Changamwe OCPD collapses, dies in...

He had complained of some pain in his body around 11am. Read more...