Police end Sydney hostage siege after 16 hours
A swarm of heavily armed police stormed a cafe in the heart of Sydney early yesterday, ending a siege by an Iranian-born gunman who had held an unknown number of hostages for more than 16 hours.
A police spokesman confirmed "the operation is over," but would not release any other details about the fate of the gunman, identified as Man Haron Monis, or of those he had held captive.
A female hostage was shot in the leg, an official said, one of at least three people hospitalised for injuries and shock. At least two people were wheeled out of the cafe on stretchers and a weeping woman was helped out by police.
One gurney was carrying what appeared to be a man lying under a blood-soaked sheet with a bloody handprint in the center. A woman with blood-covered feet lay on a second.
The standoff ended when a loud bang was heard from the Lindt Chocolat Cafe and five people ran out. Shortly after, police swooped into the building, amid a barrage of gunfire, shouts and flashes. A police bomb disposal robot also was sent into the building.
Local media said the 50-year-old Monis was the gunman, and a police official confirmed his identity. Under department rules, officials do not identify themselves unless speaking at a formal news conference.
Monis has long been on officials' radar. Last year, he was sentenced to 300 hours of community service for using the postal service to send what a judge called "grossly offensive" letters to families of soldiers killed in Afghanistan between 2007 and 2009.
At the time, Monis said his letters were "flowers of advice," adding: "Always, I stand behind my beliefs."
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