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Sydney siege: Three dead after commandos storm cafe

2014-12-15 21:42:56

The moment police stormed the Australian siege cafe

Two people died, along with an Islamist gunman, after commandos stormed a cafe in Sydney, Australia, to bring to an end a 16-hour siege.

The gunman, identified as an Iranian refugee, had taken dozens of hostages.

Four people were injured, including a policeman hit by gunshot pellets.

The centre of the city was put in lockdown when the gunman seized the hostages early on Monday, forcing some of them to hold up a black Islamic banner at the window of the Lindt cafe.

The cafe is located in Martin Place, a busy shopping area in Sydney's financial district.

Several people appear to have been injured

Prime Minister Tony Abbott said it was "profoundly shocking" that people were being "held hostage by an armed person claiming political motivation".

'Isolated incident'

A 34-year-old man and a woman aged 38 were pronounced dead after being taken to hospital, as was the gunman, the New South Wales police force said in a statement.

Two women suffered non-life threatening injuries as did a policeman who had been hit in the face by pellets.

Another woman suffered a gunshot wound to her shoulder.

New South Wales state police commissioner Andrew Scipione said it had been an "isolated incident".

Seventeen hostages were accounted for, including those who had managed to escape earlier, he said.

Local media reports suggest the commandos from the Royal Australian Regiment entered the building after the gunman started firing shots.

Commissioner Scipione urged people not to "speculate" about what had happened inside the cafe and said police believed more lives could have been lost if officers had not entered the cafe at that point.

Sixteen-hour siege

09:45 Monday local time (22:45 GMT Sunday): Police are called out to the Lindt Chocolat Cafe in Sydney's Martin Place, a busy plaza in the heart of the city. Suggestions an armed robbery is under way are soon discounted

10:09: Australian TV stations broadcast footage of hostages holding a black Islamic banner up to the window. The gunman can also be seen, wearing a bandana

12:30: As police flood the area, Prime Minister Tony Abbott goes on national TV to promise a thorough police response to the "deeply concerning incident"

16:00-17:00: Three men, then two women, sprint to safety from the cafe's fire exit

18:30: Police confirm negotiations are under way with the gunman

02:20 Tuesday (15:20 GMT Monday): Several more hostages escape and commandos storm the cafe

02:48: Police officially confirm end of siege. They later report the deaths of three people, including the gunman

Several hostages fled from the building shortly after 02:00 local time Tuesday (15:00 GMT Monday),

Minutes later, the commandos with assault rifles and wearing helmets and body armour could be seen piling into the cafe, tossing stun grenades ahead of them, and apparently opening fire.

Hostages ran to safety with their hands in the air. A man and a woman were seen being carried to safety by emergency services. Medics were seen treating a person lying on the ground.

The dramatic scenes of the rescue operation were broadcast live on television.

New South Wales police announced the end of the siege at 02:44 local time (15:44 GMT) in a tweet, promising details later.

'Isolated figure'

As many as 40 customers and staff were taken hostage. Five managed to escape through a fire exit on Monday afternoon.

Man Haron Monis
Mr Monis is well known to the Australian police

Suspected gunman Man Haron Monis received political asylum in Australia in 1996 and was on bail facing a number of charges.

On a website, now suspended, he describes himself as a Shia Muslim who converted to Sunni Islam.

The self-styled cleric was described by his former lawyer as an isolated figure.

One of his demands was to have a flag of Islamic State, the Sunni militant group which recently seized territory in Syria and Iraq, to be delivered to the cafe.

Martin Place is home to the state premier's office and the headquarters of major banks.

At the nearby Sydney Opera House, evening performances were cancelled as shops and offices in the area shut early due to the security situation.

"It's sad to think this is my home and that it could happen anywhere," onlooker Rebecca Courtney told AFP news agency.


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