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Gunman among three dead after Sydney siege

December 15, 2014

Australian police have said that three people were killed and four others injured in the operation to end the siege of a Sydney cafe. Police moved in after a gunman had held several hostages for more than 16 hours.

Australien Geiselnahme in Sydney beendet
Image: Getty Images/J. Martinson

A statement released by the New South Wales Police Force early on Tuesday local time, said the gunman was among those killed in the operation. Two other people, a 34-year-old man and a 38-year-old woman were also pronounced dead after being rushed to hospital.

The statement did not identify the 50-year-old gunman, but police previously confirmed that he was Man Haron Monis, an Iranian refugee who is facing criminal charges in a number of separate cases, including sexual assault and accessory to murder. He was out on bail when he seized the hostages at the cafe on Monday.

Police said four other people were injured during the operation.

The statement also said that what police described as a "critical incident" investigation had been launched into the matter.

Heavily armed police moved in shortly after 2 a.m. local time (1500 GMT) on Monday to end the hostage-taking at the Lindt Chocolat Cafe in central Sydney.

Heavy gunfire and loud bangs were heard as the police made their move.

A few minutes later, Australian police confirmed that they had ended the siege after the hostages had been held at gunpoint for more than 16 hours.

At a press conference on Tuesday morning, New South Wales Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione said the officers who had surrounded the cafe for hours decided to take action after hearing what sounded like gunshots coming from inside.

"They made the call because they believed that at that time, if they didn't enter, there would have been many more lives lost," Scipione said, adding that the gunman had taken a total of 17 hostages, including five who had escaped earlier on Monday.

Black flag displayed

At one point during the siege, the gunman forced hostages to hold up a black flag inside one of the cafe's windows. The flag featured Arabic script, which was different but in the same style as the flag used by "Islamic State" (IS) militants, who have seized large swathes of territory in northern Iraq and Syria in recent months.

While the hostage-taker's motives and affiliations were not immediately clear, many experts have raised the possibility that he was acting on his own.

There had been growing fears of some sort of attack by Islamists in Australia for more than a year, with the country's security agency having raised its national terror alert to "high" back in September.

Several Australian Muslim groups issued a joint statement on Monday condemning the hostage-taking. Amid fears of a possible backlash as a result of the attack, many Australians went on Twitter offer to accompany people dressed in typical Muslim attire during their travels.

pfd/ksb (Reuters AP, dpa)

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