Hostages Held in Cafe in Sydney, Australia

Hundreds of armed police in Sydney, Australia, have sealed off an area of the central business district where gunmen are holding what appears to be more than three dozen people hostage inside a cafe.

Live television from the scene showed people inside a Lindt chocolate cafe standing with their hands pushed up against the windows. A black flag with Arabic writing on it also could be seen through the glass.

Police say nearby offices have been evacuated as a precaution. Sydney’s famed Opera House also was evacuated. Streets in the area were cordoned off.

Authorities were trying to make contact with those inside the cafe.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott told a news conference no one yet knows the motivation of whoever is behind the incident. He said the point of such acts is to scare people out of being themselves, and he urged all Australians to go about their business as usual.

The cafe is located in the heart of Sydney’s financial and shopping district, an area that is packed with holiday shoppers at this time of the year. The New South Wales state parliament house is just a few blocks away.