Sydney/New Delhi: The Indian mission in Sydney is in regular touch with the authorities of the New South Wales state capital over the hostage crisis, said Consul-General Sunjay Sudhir.
Talking to IANS from Sydney, Sudhir said that the number of hostages at the Lindt Cafe in Martin Place has now been revealed to be around 12-15 and not 30 as was being mentioned earlier.
“We are in very regular touch with the NSW authorities regarding the security operations at the cafe,” Sudhir said.
Asked about reports of an Infosys executive being among the hostages, Sudhir said he heard about it from the Indian media, but clarified that the Australian authorities have not conveyed any such news.
“I am unable to comment on this as we have not got any such information from the authorities here,” he said.
The Indian consulate in Sydney, located around 400 metres from the Lindt Cafe, was evacuated in the morning.
Sudhir said they would take a call on whether to return to the consulate, located on Pitt Street, after assessing the situation.
“We decided to clear out the staff for security reasons. We will take a call in the morning after considering the security situation,” he said.
He said the Australian authorities have said they are for “peaceful resolution” of the crisis.
“We can see that they have a plan for peaceful resolution of the situation,” Sudhir said.
With night having descended on Sydney, which is five and a half hours ahead of India, the lights of the cafe were turned off. The hostages were made to stand facing the outside with their hands against the large French windows. Two of them were made to hold up a black flag with an Islamic inscription.
The single male armed gunman has been contacted by the Sydney police and he has reportedly placed some demands before them, including for an Islamic State flag.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was among the first world leaders to condemn the attack. His Australian counterpart Tony Abbott appealed for calm as a stunned world saw the drama unfold in a country that has been largely unscarred by terrorism.
Vinod Bahade, deputy consul general in Sydney, told IANS over telephone in the morning: “Minutes after we got to know that some people at a nearby cafe have been taken hostage by a gunman, the Indian consulate was evacuated.”
“However, we have not shut it and the work will resume once the problem is solved.”
Surinder Datta, deputy high commissioner at the Indian High Commission at Canberra, told IANS that the incident is being constantly being monitored.
“We are taking reports from the Indian consulate in Sydney. This is a very critical issue and we do not want to take any decision in hurry,” he told IANS over phone from Canberra.
Infosys said it was in touch with authorities in Sydney and the Indian consulate about the well being of its employees in Sydney.
“We can confirm that one Infosys employee is among the hostages at the Lindt Cafe in Sydney. We are in the process of confirming the whereabouts of all our other employees in the city,” the company said.
India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj Monday sought details of the incident from the Indian mission in Canberra.