3 People, Including Gunman, Killed In Sydney Cafe Siege

 

Sydney police say three people have died, including the gunman, during a hostage crisis that ended when officers stormed a downtown cafe.

Television images showed police throwing what appeared to be stun grenades, before entering the building. One hostage was carried out, while others ran with their hands over their heads.

"Sydney siege is over," the New South Wales Police tweeted. "More details to follow."

The situation began unfolding shortly before 10 a.m. Monday, Australia time, when a gunman entered the Lindt Chocolat Cafe in downtown Sydney.

Shortly after, hostages were seen at the window of the chocolate store holding up a black flag with the shahada, an Islamic creed declaring Allah as the true God.

The motive is still unclear, but police said the suspect was an Iranian cleric who had faced criminal charges in the past.

It's also unclear how many hostages were being held. Five hostages managed to escape before police moved into the building.

A large portion of Australia's largest city is still under lockdown, as the Monday turned into early Tuesday morning.

ABC (the Australian Broadcasting Corp.) is streaming its coverage live here. We'll be following this story as it unfolds on this post, so hit refresh to see the latest.

Update at 10:47 a.m. ET. 'Siege Is Over'

Update at 10:22 a.m. ET. Paramedics Move In:

Television images are now showing paramedics removing at least four people on stretchers from the building.

Some people ran from the building with their hands up, while others were escorted to safety by police.

It's still not clear why police made a move into the cafe. It is now 2:24 a.m. on Tuesday in Sydney.

Update at 10:16 a.m. ET. Police Storm Cafe:

Television images showed police storming the cafe, while a sixth hostage was carried out.

The images showed police, in tactical gear, using what appeared to be stun grenades, before moving into the building.

Update at 9:53 a.m. ET. Police Name Suspect:

Police in Sydney have named the suspected hostage taker as Iranian cleric Man Haron Monis.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports Monis first gained the attention of authorities when he "penned poisonous letters to the family of dead Australian soldiers."

The paper continues:

"Last year he was charged with being an accessory to the murder of his ex-wife and mother of two.

"And most recently, he was charged with more than 50 allegations of indecent and sexual assault relating to time allegedly spent as a self-proclaimed 'spiritual healer' who dealt with black magic at a premises in western Sydney more than a decade ago."

Story source: NPR