Sydney siege: Police still negotiating

Officers are negotiating with the armed man in Australia’s most populous city.

Police walk through Martin Place as spectators look on during a hostage siege in the central business district of Sydney on December 15, 2014. Picture: AFP.

SYDNEY - Police are still negotiating with an armed man who has been holding an unknown number of hostages at the Lindt Chocolate Cafe in Sydney's CBD.

Three people emerged from the building a few hours ago and were followed by another two a short while later.

Several hostages were earlier seen pressing a black flag with Islamic text against the cafe's windows.

New South Wales Deputy Police Commissioner Catherine Burn says she cannot confirm how many people are still being held hostage.

Police are working to determine the motive for the siege.

Burn says Australia has the best negotiators in the world and they are working methodically to make sure nobody is injured.

She says the five hostages who emerged from the cafe are being assessed to ensure they are in good health and are being questioned by police.

Meanwhile, the city remains on lockdown and on a high state of alert.

Officials earlier said they knew of one armed assailant involved in the hostage drama in the heart of Sydney's financial district but there could be more.

Police, including paramilitary officers, cordoned off several blocks around the cafe in Martin Place.

This as negotiators tried to defuse one of the biggest security scares in the country for decades.

Snipers and swat teams took up positions around the cafe as police helicopters flew overhead.

The siege took place close to the Sydney Opera House, Sydney Town Hall, Harbour Bridge and other prominent landmarks.

It's also directly next door to the Reserve Bank of Australia and a major television network.

Additional reporting by Reuters.