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Sydney's CBD was sent into lockdown after gunman took the staff and patrons of a popular Lindt cafe in Martin Place hostage. This is how it unfolded.
At around 9:45am yesterday morning, police were alerted to a man acting suspiciously in Martin Place.
Initial reports suggested at least one gunman was holding around 15 hostages inside the Lindt café in Martin Place. NSW Police refused to disclose the total number of people being held.
Soon after, staff and patrons were seen at the window of the café with their hands in the air. Some were brandishing a black and white flag displaying Arabic writing.
A translator confirmed the Arabic writing on the black flag read: "There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his messenger"
Trains and buses were stopped and roads were blocked in the area.
NSW Police Comm. Andrew Scipione: ‘We understand no one has been injured, and if that’s true, for that we’re grateful'
— 7 News Sydney (@7NewsSydney) December 15, 2014
At around 11:30am, authorities responded to an "incident" at the Sydney Opera House. The area was evacuated.
Reports surfaced the gunman was armed with a shotgun, possibly a machete and explosives.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott released a statement:
"I have spoken with NSW Premier Mike Baird and offered him all possible Commonwealth support and assistance. The National Security Committee of Cabinet has also convened for briefings on the situation. This is obviously a deeply concerning incident but all Australians should be reassured that our law enforcement and security agencies are well trained and equipped and are responding in a thorough and professional manner."
As of 2pm, police had not made contact with the gunman.
Heavily armed specialist tactical officers surrounded the building.
I have complete confidence in the @nswpolice who have been handling the situation at Martin Place w the professionalism we expect of them
— Mike Baird (@mikebairdMP) December 15, 2014
An area around Martin Place was evacuated with hundreds of officers involved in the police operation.
Senior police revealed there were fewer than 30 hostages in the Lindt café, at Martin Place in Sydney’s CBD, contrary to reports up to 50 people were being held.
There were reports some may have been sick or injured, but police discounted those claims.
Police eventually made direct contact with the gunman and he started speaking with specialist negotiators, who worked to establish his identity and a motive.
Police confirmed there was no link between the siege and anything else that has happened around Sydney yesterday.
People in buildings facing Martin Place were told to stay inside.
The police lock down perimeter extended to King and York Streets.
The gunman reportedly used a cafe worker as a human shield.
Martin Place station was closed as people started to leave the CBD after work, but the rail network was otherwise running as normal.
— 7 News Sydney (@7NewsSydney) December 15, 2014
For anyone in the city who needed assistance, police set up a Safety Site in Hyde Park.
A freed hostage treated in hospital. Unconfirmed whether that person sustained physical injuries.
NSW police said they have contact with someone inside the cafe.
Tony Abbott addressed the nation, urging the Australian public to stay calm and go about their normal business.
All the hostages now huddled at one end of Lindt Cafe, one is covering the window at that end with an apron
— Chris Reason (@ChrisReason7) December 15, 2014
The international community responded to the hostage crisis with messages of goodwill flowing in to Australia. Among them was a text from New Zealand Prime Minister John Key to Mr Abbott offering his support.
At around 2:45pm, Sydney radio station 2GB said a person from inside the cafe, possibly a hostage, made contact asking to be put on the air. The radio station refused in line with police orders.
At around 3.40pm, three people, believed to be hostages, left the cafe with their hands in the air.
At around 5pm, two women were seen running out of the cafe, bringing the total number of released or escaped hostages to five (three men, two women).
People making their way home from work in the Martin Place area were advised to follow the directions of emergency services on site for public transport advice.
For live updates, visit the Live Traffic website.
At around midnight, Police identified the alleged gunman as Man Monis, a known offender to authorities.
At around 2:20am, several hostages were seen running from the scene.
At least seven hostages ran free and shortly after police moved in. Three loud bangs were heard. Police opened gunfire.
Initial reports suggested at least two people were killed and three others gravely injured.
Police and paramedics tried desperately to save hostages wounded during the violent final moments of the 17-hour operation.
Seven Network reporter Chris Reason, who was watching from the Seven newsroom after being allowed back in as night fell, watched from less than 50 metres away as police stormed the café.
Two fatalities were confirmed as the gunman and a hostage. The hostage was killed by the gunman.
A third death has been reported.
At 5.30am NSW Police commissioner Andrew Scipione confirmed three people had died in the siege. A 38-year-old woman and a 34-year-old man were pronounced dead after being taken to hospital. The 50-year-old gunman was among the fatalities.
Four others were injured in the hostage drama, including a police officer, hit in the face by a pellet.