TAIPEI - A Taiwanese woman, described only as Miss Q, reported to authorities that she received a disturbing phone call yesterday from her fiance at 10 a.m. Australia time, warning her that he feared for his life when he found that gunman had taken hostages in the Lindt Chocolat Cafe below his office.
He was unsure how many gunmen there were or if they planned to use explosives, said the woman. Phone calls to loved ones were kept brief in accordance with requests from Sydney police as they attempt to trace any calls made by the suspects.
The 31-year-old man works for a life insurance company above the Lindt Chocolat cafe in Martin Place in downtown Sydney. He claims that some of his colleagues were in the cafe at the time the gunman appeared.
Several hostages were coerced to hold up a banner with Arabic writing in the cafe window. Sydney police at the time believed that the gunman was not affiliated with the Islamic State (IS), but possibly a member of another terrorist group.
Police speculated yesterday that the perpetrator may have had someone close to him killed by Australian troops in the middle east.
MOFA Advises against Visiting Martin Place
The Taiwan Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) announced yesterday afternoon that Taiwanese expats and travelers should avoid unnecessary travel to the area.
MOFA explained that the Lindt Chocolat cafe is nearby major government buildings such as the New South Whales Parliament, Library, the High Criminal Court and Downing Centre and major tourist attractions like the iconic Sydney Opera House, which could be potential targets. Expats and visitors should take precautions for their safety, stay informed on any updates and avoid crowded areas, the ministry stated.
According to local Australian news sources, police made contact with the suspect in hopes of negotiating the release of approximately 15 people trapped inside the cafe in Martin Place.
MOFA spokesperson Anna Kao stated that police yesterday were unable to establish the nationality and identity of all hostages, but they have been relying on local sources and cafe management to supply further information.
A TaiMOFA also reached out to Taiwanese students, companies and all Taiwanese visiting Australia via their Facebook page and other means, and issued advisories and updates on the situation.
Taiwan has been known to be high on a list of nations sending immigrants and workers to Australia for several decades. Taiwanese apply for more Australian working holiday visas than any other country. Australia granted 9,112 Taiwanese residents working holiday visas in 2011, according to government data.