A tense, 16-hour Australian hostage standoff ended with an eruption of gunfire in Sydney when heavily armed police stormed a cafe in the heart of the city’s financial center.

Two people died in the fiery end to the siege, local media reported. Sky News Australia said the gunman was one of the dead.

“Sydney siege is over. More details to follow,” New South Wales tweeted.

After long hours of little movement, live TV suddenly showed a group of about six hostages running from the Lindt Chocolate Cafe. Police then swarmed the building to the pops of gunfire and smoke grenades. Moments later, one weeping woman was helped out by the officers and at least two other people were wheeled out on stretchers.

It was not clear how many people were injured. The Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported that at least three people were seriously injured.

Media outlets, citing police, identified the suspect as Man Haron Monis, 49, an Iranian-born, self-proclaimed Muslim cleric with a lengthy criminal record who is currently free on bail.

“This is a one-off random individual. It’s not a concerted terrorism event or act. It’s a damaged goods individual who’s done something outrageous,” his former lawyer, Manny Conditsis, told ABC.”His ideology is just so strong and so powerful that it clouds his vision for common sense and objectiveness.”

Earlier, the lone gunman had issued demands and claimed to have bombs scattered around the city, multiple media outlets reported. The gunman also had released videos, through some hostages, stating that he wanted an Islamic State flag and a phone call from Australian prime minister Tony Abbott.

Hundreds of heavily armed police officers, many in sniper positions, had taken control of the streets around the cafe in the area of Martin Place downtown… see more

source: usatoday