NEW DELHI: The two Indian nationals who were among the about 15 people held hostage in a popular Sydney cafe are safe, authorities said tonight, shortly after the 16-hours siege ended with police action.
Vishwakant Ankit Reddy, in his mid-30s and currently employed with IT major Infosys, and Pushpendu Ghosh are both safe and now in police custody, an External Affairs Ministry spokesperson said. Details of Ghosh were not immediately known.
Initially it was believed that Ankit Reddy was the only Indian hostage. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said Prime Minister Narendra Modi was monitoring the hostage situation throughout.
"The hostage crisis in Sydney is over. Vishwakant Ankit Reddy is safe. He is undergoing some medical check ups and will be back home safe," Swaraj said in her first tweet after the end of the dramatic siege.
Five minutes later, she tweeted, "Another Indian hostage Shri Pushpendu Ghosh is also safe."
"We were in constant touch with our mission in Sydney and the family of Shri Reddy. The PM was monitoring the situation throughout," she said.
Ishwar Reddy, a relieved father of Ankit Reddy, said he received a message from his daugther-in-law as well as his colleagues after his son came out of the popular Lindt cafe.
"My son is okay and my son will call me," he said. Reddy, a native of Guntur, said his son has been working in Australia for the past seven years.
He said the IT company called him up at 9 am(IST) to inform about the hostage crisis after which he spoke to his daughter-in-law Shilpa Reddy in Sydney to get more details.
Shilpa told him that Australian Police met her after her husband was taken hostage and asked her not to worry.
Quoting his daughter-in-law, Ishwar said she has been told the "operation (to free the hostages) will be completed in one day" and was asked not to worry.
"My son left for office in the morning at around 10 and went to the cafe where a gunman took him and 29 others hostage. The hostage-taker closed the cafe. The hostages were also offered food," Ishwar said.
"My son was working with National Australian Bank in Melbourne and moved to Sydney around eight months ago to work in another bank as Senior Project Manager," he said.
"My son, after completing his studies at BITS Pilani, worked in US and then shifted to Australia after getting a job with Infosys. He returned to India for marriage and has been working in Australia for the past seven years," Ishwar said.
With regard to the gunman's demands, Ishwar said "they are not clear".
Guntur (Urban) Superintendent of Police Rajesh Kumar told PTI that Australian authorities were in touch with Vishwakant Ankireddy's wife. The couple has a 6-year-old daughter.
"We are in touch with the techie's family members here. Vishwakant Ankireddy's father is praying for his safe and early release," the SP said.