An Infosys employee is among those being held hostage by an unidentified armed man who stormed a downtown cafe in Sydney, the IT major said on Monday.
The Indian consulate located near the cafe was immediately evacuated along with many other buildings in the Australian city as a preventive step.
The government said all Indian staffers at the consulate are safe. The consulate is around 300-400 metres away from the Lindt cafe where an undisclosed number of people are being held hostage by the armed man.
Infosys, in a statement, said one of its employees in Sydney was among the hostages and that the employee’s family has been informed about it.
“We can confirm that one Infosys employee is among the hostages at the Lindt Cafe in Sydney,” the Bengaluru-headquartered company said.
As the hostage crisis unfolded, external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj spoke to Indian high commissioner in Canberra.
“As a preventive measure in accordance with the local requirements, we have evacuated the staff from the Sydney Consulate building because it is located about 300-400 metres away from where this incident took place,” external affairs ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said.
In Sydney, Consul General Sunjay Sudhir said that due to security concerns the consulate has been locked down and all officers were told to go to safe places.
The Central Business District where the cafe is located has many Indian establishments including State Bank of India, Bank of Baroda and Indian tourism office.
In its statement, Infosys said, “We are also in the process of confirming the whereabouts of all our other employees in the city. We are in constant touch with the local authorities and Indian Consulate in Sydney for updates on the situation on ground.”
The cafe is in Martin Place, the heart of Sydney’s business district.
The New South Wales police have activated Task Force Pioneer, which they use in terrorism-related incidents, to handle the pre-Christmas incident.
Just over five hours into the siege, five people, including a woman, were seen running out of the cafe. Two came out through the front door and one through the fire escape. It is still not known whether they were freed or escaped.
Asked about the India techie being among the hostages, the external affairs ministry spokesperson only said the local authorities in Sydney were providing information to Indian consulate.
“They have been sharing information with us which we are constantly updating to all concerned. I think it is not proper to indicate to us in such a situation about nationalities, passports and issues of that nature,” he said.
He said the Indian consulate has set up a helpline +61481453550 and the Deputy Counsel General was available on it.
Television footage showed people inside the cafe with their hands pressed against the window holding the black flag with Arabic script known as Shahadah, a prayer spoken in mosques daily. The flag displayed was not one specific to the Islamic State, reports said.