Three people, including the hostage-taker, are dead after a 16 hour siege ended early on Tuesday. Police stormed the Sydney cafe where a gunman was holding an unknown number of hostages in the early morning, and later confirmed that the operation was over. Meanwhile, inside the building, a 34-year-old man and a 38-year-old woman suffered fatal injuries, and four others, including a police officer, were shot. The suspect was confirmed as Man Haron Monis, a 50-year-old with pending charges for murder and sexual assault.
Officers moved in after five or six hostages were seen running from the building with the hands in the air, bringing the total number of people who have escaped the building to ten. At least two people were wheeled out on stretchers, and police were seen carrying a bloodied woman out of the building and performing CPR on someone else in the doorway.
The situation began on Monday morning local time, when a man took control of the Lindt Chocolate Cafe in downtown Sydney, locking in customers and employees, and reportedly using a young waitress as a human shield. Several hostages were forced to stand in front of one of the cafe’s windows, holding a black flag bearing the Muslim declaration of faith. Five hostages who fled the building around 7 p.m. Monday said the gunman was demanding an ISIS flag and a phone call with Australian prime minister Tony Abbott. He was later identified as Man Haron Monis, an Iranian man with a criminal record who calls himself Sheikh Haron.
Abbott described the “disturbing incident” using cautious language. “Australia is a peaceful, open and generous society — nothing should ever change that and that’s why I would urge all Australians today to go about their business as usual,” he said. Abbott suggested that the incident might by “politically motivated,” but did not call it terrorism. As a precaution, though, the iconic Sydney Opera House was evacuated, as was a nearby U.S. consulate.
Gunfire was heard around 2 a.m. local time on Tuesday as police stormed the shop. “This really reached this critical stage where we heard a lot of yelling, we heard a lot of banging and then repeated gunfire ... I’m not sure whether it was gunfire or some other incendiary or explosive device, perhaps some sort of a stun grenade,” reported Austalia’s ABC News. “But there were plenty of those volleys. It lasted probably 15 to 20 seconds and a lot of flashing lights as well.”
This post will be updated as more information becomes available.