-- A hostage situation that began Monday morning in Australia has stretched into the night hours, as authorities carefully negotiate with an armed assailant.
Five people have escaped from the Lindt chocolate cafe after they had been taken hostage -- with others still held inside as neighboring blocks remain locked down, authorities said.
Two people inside the cafe were seen holding up a flag with Arabic writing on it that has been used by extremists in the past -- raising fears that a terror attack was unfolding in Australia's largest city.
Authorities declined to say how many hostages are being held in the cafe. Some of those being held can be seen through the shop's windows with their hands held in the air.
The area is also close to the New South Wales state parliament.
Stay with us for live updates as the situation unfolds.