Police storm the Lindt cafe in Sydney ending a 17 hour siege by a gunman identified as an Iranian refugee. Police say the gunman and two hostages were killed.
Police entered the cafe after an intense period of loud explosions or gunshots and flashes of lights. Several ambulances are on the scene.
The police said that a 50-year old man thought to be Man Haron Monis and two hostages were killed.
“A critical incident investigation has been launched after three people died and four others were injured during a police operation in Sydney’s CBD this morning,”
“About 2.10am (Tuesday 16 December), a confrontation occurred between police and a man who had taken a number of people hostage inside a café on Martin Place.Shots were fired during the confrontation.”
Earlier, police identified the man behind the siege as Iranian cleric Man Haron Monis. He had been holding an unknown number of people hostage at the Lindt Chocolat Cafe in Sydney’s Martin Place since Monday morning.
Read more: Who is Sydney gunman Man Haron Monis?
Three people emerged from the building about 4:00pm (AEDT) and they were followed by another two an hour later. Hostages were earlier seen pressing a black flag with Arabic text against the cafe’s windows.
Monis is currently on bail for a string of violent offences, including being an accessory to the murder of his ex-wife.
He is also facing more than 40 sexual and indecent assault charges and has a conviction for sending offensive letters to the families of deceased Australian soldiers.
Negotiators had earlier established contact with the armed man but police would not comment on his motives.
It had been suggested that hostages have called media organisations to relay demands, however, Channel 4 News presenter Krishnan Guru-Murthy, who is in Sydney, said the reports could not be confirmed.
There were also unconfirmed reports about explosives having been planted around the city, but Krishnan Guru-Murthy again says we need to be cautious about these claims.
“This is a very disturbing incident,” Prime Minister Tony Abbott said. “It is profoundly shocking that innocent people should be held hostage by an armed person claiming political motivation.”
Lindt Australia posted a message on its Facebook page thanking the public for their support: “We are deeply concerned over this serious incident and our thoughts and prayers are with the staff and customers involved and all their friends and families.”