Sydney wakes to the grim news that 2 hostages have been killed in the crossfire between police and the gunman identified as Man Haron Monis overnight. Heavily armed police stormed the Lindt Cafe in Martin Place around 2am after a siege of nearly 17 hours also shooting dead the gunman. A number of threats and pleas for help were received overnight with a few of the hostages managing to post messages on social media and send text messages to their families. Several videos have also been circulating online purportedly containing messages by the hostages speaking from inside the Cafe. Their authenticity appears to be genuine but is yet to be confirmed.
Gunshots from within the Cafe triggered the police's emergency action plan resulting in officers opening fire and throwing what is believed to be stun grenades into the building. Just a few moments before the gunshots were fired, 7 hostages managed to escape from the cafe. A total of 3 people including the gunman have been killed. The 2 hostages killed during the exchange of fire are a 34 year old man identified as Lindt Cafe Manager Tori Johnson and a 38 year old woman identified as Sydney barrister Katrina Dawson. Several people are currently being treated in hospital including a police officer with a gunshot wound to the face.
Around 2:45am, NSW Police declare the siege to be over although the exclusion zone remains in place. The lone gunman and hostage taker named as Man Haron Monis who is a 50 year old Iranian cleric who moved to Australia in 1998 as a political refugee. He was known to police from previous court appearances including for 'hate mail' against families of deceased Australian soldiers in 2009, being an accessory to a murder in 2013 and a sexual assault case in 2014. The gunman is not believed to be part of any terrorist organisation.
NSW Premier Mike Baird and Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione addressed the media around 5:30am confirming the results of the police action and the end of the siege. Mike Baird goes on to describe the past 24 hours as "a tragedy none of us could ever have imagined". Andrew Scipione announces that police are now investigating the matter as a "critical incident" and urges people not to cause speculation. Prime Minister Tony Abbott has commended the police for their "courage and professionalism" during the siege in Martin Place. Australian leaders also have called for calm and unity as the nation moves through the situation.
Update as at 16 December 2014 at 10am (Sydney, Australia EST)