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Bomb scare in Sydney's CBD

Two men are arrested after a suspicious item was found outside the Queen Victoria Building in Sydney's CBD on Thursday night. Nine News.

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A smoking backpack with wires attached to it created a scare outside the Queen Victoria Building in Sydney's CBD on Thursday night, forcing police to evacuate shoppers and lock down a number of key city roads.

Two men have been charged over the attempted robbery of a Westpac ATM on Market Street.

Passers-by flagged down police about 9.30pm on Thursday after noticing a suspicious backpack sitting on the footpath on York Street.

Two men were being questioned by police over an attempted ATM robbery.

Two men were being questioned by police over an attempted ATM robbery. Photo: Julian King

A NSW Police spokeswoman said witnesses saw smoke coming from the backpack and a number of wires protruding from the bag.

Police immediately shut down surrounding streets, including Market Street between Kent and George streets, and evacuated the QVB building as specialist officers were called in to examine the bag.

The exclusion zone remained in place for about an hour before police said the backpack posed no danger. It was seized for forensic examination.

Police allege the backpack had been used in an unsuccessful attempt to break into the ATM on Market Street a short time earlier.

Sydney Morning Herald freelance journalist Su-Lin Tan said police on Thursday night had asked bystanders to leave the area.

"[Police] were telling people to 'stay away, you don't want to be around here'," she said.

"They were quite agro telling people to 'stay away, stay away'."

Tan said police had wrapped the QVB in police tape and about 20 officers surrounded the building's northern end.

"It is just a ball of tape around the QVB near Market Street and the York Street side as well."

New South Wales Fire and Rescue were also at the scene, she said.

A 47-year-old man has been charged with destroy or damage property in company, being armed with intent to commit an indictable offence and two counts of having custody of a knife/cutting implement in a public place.

A 27-year-old man was charged with destroy or damage property in company.

Both were refused bail and are to appear in Central Local Court on Friday.