Gunman, 2 hostages die as police end siege of Sydney cafe

15 December 2014

Two of the hostages and the gunman Sheik Man Haron Monis, who was holding an unknown number of people at gun-point for over 16 hours, were killed as heavily-armed Australian security forces stormed the Sydney café to end the hostage drama.

While the standoff at the Lindt Chocolat Cafe in downtown Sydney ended after gunfire and loud bangs rang out around 2 am local time (10 am ET on Monday), police did not confirm details of casualties.

India's minister of external affairs Sushma Swaraj tweeted that Infosys techie Vishwakant Ankit Reddy, who was one among the hostages, was safe. Reports quoting Reddy's father Ishwar Reddy also said he was okay.

The police action came shortly after six people believed to have been held captive had managed to flee the scene.

The cafe is located in the heart of Sydney's financial and shopping district, an area that is packed with holiday shoppers at this time of year.

Sydney's famed Opera House is also located several blocks away.

Police had evacuated all nearby offices and cordoned off the area as a precaution. A train line running under the restaurant was also shut down.

New South Wales police identified the gunman as Man Haron Monis, an Iranian refugee and a self-styled Muslim cleric.

Monis, who is around 50, had earlier been charged with several counts of sexual assault and was found guilty in 2012 of sending offensive and threatening letters to the families of Australian soldiers killed overseas, according to Reuters and The Sydney Morning Herald.

Local media reported that Monis was known as Manteghi Bourjerdi before he changed his name.

Ahead of the police action, Monis, as seen through a cafe's window, was wearing a white shirt with a black vest, and carrying some type of weapon. A black flag with the Islamic creed known as the Shahada written in white could be also seen through the glass.

The hostages, estimated to be between 10 and 25, were seen standing with their hands pushed up against the windows.

The Australian government and police authorities refused to call it terrorist act but suggested the incident could be politically motivated.

Police Commissioner Scipione addressed a news conference but refused to call the situation a terrorist event, instead saying, "at this stage, the operational advice that I've got is we're still determining what it is that may well be the motivation," Scipione said.

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