Two hostages, gunman dead in Sydney siege – CNN

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: The gunman’s social media postings reflect a radical Sunni extremist theology
  • Authorities moved in after hearing gunshots inside cafe, police say
  • Gunman identified as Man Haron Monis, U.S. sources say
  • Images showed hostages pressed against a window, holding a flag with Arabic on it

Sydney (CNN) — Australian authorities stormed the cafe where a self-styled Muslim cleric had been holding hostages early Tuesday, killing the gunman and ending a crisis that had paralyzed central Sydney for hours.

They moved in more than 16 hours after the siege began, only after hearing gunfire inside the Lindt Chocolate Cafe, New South Wales police Commissioner Andrew P. Scipione told reporters Tuesday.

Two of the 17 hostages initially held by the gunman died, according to Scipione.

A police officer suffered a wound to the face from gunshot pellets. He was expected to recover, police said.

“This will not change the things that we hold dear in this country,” Scipione said.

Man Haron Monis.
Man Haron Monis.

The gunman had been identified earlier as Man Haron Monis by an official with direct knowledge of the situation. According to his social media posts, the gunman appears to have embraced a radical Sunni extremist theology.

The raid ended the standoff but left many other questions unanswered: What did the gunman want? Why did he choose the cafe as his target? And was he acting alone?

Before the raid, Monis had demanded a flag and phone call with Prime Minister Tony Abbott, CNN affiliate Sky News Australia reported. He made the demands through hostages who contacted media organizations, Sky News reported.

Some hostages had also reportedly posted messages to social networking sites and the YouTube online video service. Police urged media early Tuesday not to show the videos.

Monis, also known as Sheikh Haron, pleaded guilty in 2013 to writing letters to relatives of Australian service members saying they were “Hitler’s soldiers,” according to Australian media reports.

He was believed to be acting alone, and he didn’t appear to be part of a broader plot, additional U.S. law enforcement and intelligence sources said Monday.

Police: Hostage safety is our top priority

Australian Police: We have had contact

MAP: Sydney central business district MAP: Sydney central business district

MAP: Sydney central business districtMAP: Sydney central business district

An injured hostage is carried to an ambulance from a cafe in Sydney on Tuesday, December 16. Gunfire erupted early Tuesday as police stormed the Lindt Chocolate Cafe, where a gunman had been holding hostages since Monday morning.An injured hostage is carried to an ambulance from a cafe in Sydney on Tuesday, December 16. Gunfire erupted early Tuesday as police stormed the Lindt Chocolate Cafe, where a gunman had been holding hostages since Monday morning.
Hostages run toward police officers on December 16.Hostages run toward police officers on December 16.
A police officer and a paramedic escort a hostage away from the scene of the siege on December 16.A police officer and a paramedic escort a hostage away from the scene of the siege on December 16.
An injured hostage is wheeled to an ambulance after shots were fired during the raid on the cafe.An injured hostage is wheeled to an ambulance after shots were fired during the raid on the cafe.
Two armed police officers stand ready to enter the cafe on December 16.Two armed police officers stand ready to enter the cafe on December 16.
A hostage stands by the front entrance of the cafe as she turns off the lights on Monday, December 15.A hostage stands by the front entrance of the cafe as she turns off the lights on Monday, December 15.
A hostage runs toward police on December 15. She was one of five people seen fleeing the cafe.A hostage runs toward police on December 15. She was one of five people seen fleeing the cafe.
Police gather near the cafe on December 15.Police gather near the cafe on December 15.
Hostages behind the cafe's window hold up a black flag with Arabic script on December 15.Hostages behind the cafe’s window hold up a black flag with Arabic script on December 15.
A police officer listens to a radio on December 15.A police officer listens to a radio on December 15.
Two hostages make it to safety outside the cafe on December 15.Two hostages make it to safety outside the cafe on December 15.
A police sniper walks to his vehicle on December 15.A police sniper walks to his vehicle on December 15.
A journalist reports on the situation in Sydney.A journalist reports on the situation in Sydney.
Armed police are seen outside the cafe on December 15.Armed police are seen outside the cafe on December 15.
People rush past armed police near the cafe on December 15.People rush past armed police near the cafe on December 15.
Police close a street near the scene on December 15.Police close a street near the scene on December 15.
 Police officers talk at the scene on December 15.Police officers talk at the scene on December 15.
Armed police patrol near the Sydney Opera House. Major landmarks in Sydney were evacuated as police responded to the hostage situation.Armed police patrol near the Sydney Opera House. Major landmarks in Sydney were evacuated as police responded to the hostage situation.
Hostage situation in Sydney
Hostage situation in Sydney
Hostage situation in Sydney
Hostage situation in Sydney
Hostage situation in Sydney
Hostage situation in Sydney
Hostage situation in Sydney
Hostage situation in Sydney
Hostage situation in Sydney
Hostage situation in Sydney
Hostage situation in Sydney
Hostage situation in Sydney
Hostage situation in Sydney
Hostage situation in Sydney
Hostage situation in Sydney
Hostage situation in Sydney
Hostage situation in Sydney
Hostage situation in Sydney
HIDE CAPTION
Photos: Hostage situation in SydneyPhotos: Hostage situation in Sydney

The scene in Sydney: Grenades and gunfire

How the siege unfolded

Hundreds of police officers, including snipers, surrounded the cafe in Sydney’s central business district shortly after the gunman took over the building at 10 a.m. Monday (6 p.m. ET Sunday).

Chilling images from Australian media on Monday showed people, believed to be hostages, with their hands pressed against the cafe’s windows. They were holding up a black flag with Arabic writing on it reading, “There is no God but God and Mohammed is the prophet of God.”

Five hostages sprinted out of the cafe toward heavily armed police officers several hours into the standoff, sending the gunman into an agitated tirade, according to an Australian reporter.

Chris Reason, a correspondent for CNN affiliate Seven Network, said the gunman became “extremely agitated” when he realized what had happened and “started screaming orders” at the remaining hostages.

Reason said he could see the gunman pacing past the cafe’s windows from his vantage point at the network’s nearby offices. He described the man as unshaven, wearing a white shirt and black cap and carrying a shotgun.

As night fell, lights went out in the cafe, Reason reported.

After a tense night, police could be seen early Tuesday throwing flash-bang grenades into the cafe in video aired by Seven Network.

Gunfire erupted amid the chaos. After a brief episode of violence, the crisis appeared to ease, with police officers assuming a more relaxed pose, according to Australian media.

A national security source in the United States said a team of Australian special forces troops and police had entered the Lindt Chocolate Cafe from two directions early Tuesday morning and killed the gunman.

Video captured medics working on some people and others being carried away in stretchers.

Australians worried

The hostage situation left Australians shaken.

“Australians awoke to the news this morning that the siege in Martin Place has ended,” Abbott said in a statement Tuesday. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the two deceased hostages, the wounded and the other hostages.”

He called the violence “profoundly shocking” in a series of tweets.

“It’s been a difficult day, which has tested us, but like Australians in all sorts of situations, we have risen to the challenge,” Abbott said.

CNN’s Anna Coren reported from Sydney, Michael Pearson reported and wrote from Atlanta, and Jethro Mullen reported and wrote from Hong Kong. CNN’s Dana Ford, Hilary Whiteman, Euan McKirdy, Chieu Luu, Elizabeth Joseph and Khushbu Shah also contributed to this report.

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