8.00AM AEDT TUE: FLOWERS are being laid through Sydney’s CBD to pay tribute to those who have lost their lives in the tragic Sydney siege.
Martin Place in Sydney’s CBD will remain closed today following the dramatic end to the hostage situation at the Lindt Cafe in Martin Place, where three people, including the gunman, were killed.
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People employed in this zone are being asked to work from home, but everyone else is being encouraged to go about their business as normal.
Meanwhile, Iran has condemned the actions of the gunman, 50-year-old Man Haron Moris, who was born in that country.
Iranian foreign ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham says undertaking such inhuman acts and provoking fear and panic in the name of merciful Islam is not in any way justifiable.
Iranian media have identified hostage taker Man Haron Monishim as Mohamad Hassan Manteghi, a former Shi’ite cleric, who changed his name when he moved to Australia almost two decades ago.
7.00AM AEDT TUE: THREE people are dead – including two innocent hostages – and four others have been injured after Sydney’s Martin Place siege ended in an all out shootout early this morning.
Police said about 2.10am AEDT on Tuesday, shots were fired during a confrontation between police and 50-year-old Man Haron Monis who had been holding a number of people hostage at gunpoint inside the Lindt Cafe since about 9.45am on Monday.
It’s understood the situation rapidly escalated when hostages sought the opportunity to escape after Monis started falling asleep.
Police activated their emergency plan after the gunman woke and suddenly started opening fire on the hostages.
Officers confirmed the gunman was killed, along with two innocent hostages – a 34-year-old man and a 38-year-old woman.
Two other women were taken to hospital with non-life threatening injuries, including one with a gunshot wound to her shoulder.
A male police officer was also hospitalised with a non-life threatening wound to his face from gunshot pellets.
It was also confirmed this morning that a total of 17 hostages had been caught up in the frightening 17-hour ordeal.
In a touching tribute, flowers have been laid at Martin Place for the two murdered hostages.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott has released a statement, expressing his condolences and commending the courage of the emergency services involved.
“Australians awoke to the news this morning that the siege in Martin Place has ended,” the statement read. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the two deceased hostages, the wounded and the other hostages.”
“I commend the courage and professionalism of the New South Wales Police and other emergency services involved. Commonwealth agencies will continue to provide every support to New South Wales authorities.”
Prime Minister Abbott said the National Security Committee of Cabinet would meet “shortly” to review the situation.
News of the incident first broke over breakfast television on Monday morning as police saturated the Sydney CBD and evacuated surrounding buildings in scenes never before seen in Australia.
Chilling images of hostages with their hands pressed against the windows of the Lindt Chocolat Cafe holding a black Islamic flag were beamed across the globe.
A critical incident investigation is now underway. There are no further details available at this time.
2.30AM AEDT TUE: GUNFIRE has erupted inside the besieged Lindt Chocalat Cafe in Sydney’s Martin Place after heavily armed police moved in to save hostages.
Police stormed the building about 2.05am AEDT Tuesday after up to six hostages sprinted onto the street following a series of ‘loud bangs’.
It has been confirmed flash grenades and live ammunition were used as tactical officers moved through the building.
Paramedics rushed in soon after and were seen stretchering several hostages into awaiting ambulances.
Channel Seven reports at least two people are dead and another three are seriously injured.
It’s believed one of the deceased is the gunman – radical Muslim cleric and preacher of Islamic State Man Haron Monis – and the second is a hostage, believed killed by Monis.
Earlier on Monday afternoon, five hostages – two customers and three employees – escaped from the building in harrowing scenes.
WATCH: POLICE STORM CAFE IN BLAZE OF GUNFIRE
2.05AM AEDT TUE: ANOTHER six hostages have just emerged from the besieged building in Sydney’s Martin Place.
It takes the total number of hostages to have escaped since the siege started to 12 after five hostages emerged from the building earlier on Monday afternoon.
It remains unclear how many hostages, if any, remain inside the building.
1.00AM AEDT TUE: THE identity of the gunman behind the terrifying siege in the heart of Sydney has been revealed.
Channel Nine has identified the gunman as Man Haron Monis – a 49-year-old radical Muslim cleric and preacher of Islamic State who is currently on bail for accessory to murder.
Monis is no stranger to authorities, having previously sent abusive letters to the families of eight dead Australian soldiers criticising Australia’s involvement in Afghanistan and labeling Australian soldiers as murderers.
More recently, Monis was earlier this year charged with 40 indecent and sexual assault charges for offences alleged to have occurred while operating as a “spiritual healer” in western Sydney between 2000 and 2002.
5.00PM AEDT MON: ANOTHER two hostages have just emerged from Sydney’s Lindt cafe where at least one gunman has been holding an undisclosed number of people hostage inside for more than seven hours.
Clearly terrified, the two young women wearing Lindt aprons were seen running out onto the street and into the arms of police.
It remains unclear whether they escaped or were released by the gunman.
3.45PM AEDT MON: THREE terrified hostages have just emerged from the besieged Lindt Cafe in the heart of Sydney.
Two of the hostages – an elderly gentleman and a younger man – were seen running out the front doors and into the arms awaiting police while a third man donning a Lindt apron emerged from a fire door.
All three appear uninjured and are now with police.
NSW Deputy Commissioner Catherine Burn could not confirm how many hostages remained inside the building, but said the latest information indicated no one had been hurt.
BREAKING MONDAY: A GUNMAN brandishing a black Islamic flag is holding an unknown number of people hostage inside a cafe in the heart of Sydney’s bustling central business district.
Police were first called to the Lindt Chocolat Cafe in Martin Place about 9.45am AEDT following reports at least one gunman was inside holding more than a dozen – possibly as many as 50 – staff and customers hostage.
The chilling scenes unfolded live on breakfast television during Channel Seven’s The Morning Show with terrified customers and staff seen standing with their hands pressed against Cafe windows.
Frightening images of two hostages holding what appeared to be a black and white Islamic flag were beamed across the globe.
The flag – which was first thought to belong to the Islamic State terror group – is said to be a Shahada flag which represents a general expression of faith in Islam and reads: “There is no god but Allah; Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.”
Journalists on the scene reported seeing a bearded gunman wearing a black headband using a hostage as a human shield as he moved around inside the Cafe.
The city’s CBD has been shut down, scores of heavily armed police have saturated the area and surrounding buildings have been evacuated, including the Channel Seven news studio.
Martin Place has long been identified as a potential terrorist target following the largest counter-terrorism raids in Australia’s history back in September this year which saw details emerge of an alleged terror plot to abduct a random Australian and behead them in public.