In a fiery end to the 16-hour siege, Australian forces stormed Lindt Chocolate Cafe and rescued the hostages; the lone gunman, Man Haron Monis, was shot dead
Sydney: Heavily-armed police stormed a popular Sydney cafe where a gunman of Iranian-origin had been holding about 15 people, including an Indian Infosys IT professional, ending an over 16-hour hostage drama.
A deceased hostage is carried out of the cafe. Police have confirmed the siege is over. Pic/AFP
“Sydney siege is over,” New South Wales police tweeted minutes after loud bangs were heard as police stormed the Lindt Chocolate Cafe in downtown Sydney. A police spokesman confirmed, “The operation is over.”
As police stormed the Lindt Chocolate Cafe in downtown Sydney shortly after five to six hostages, including two Indians, were seen running out of the eatery.
A woman carried out by police from the Lindt Cafe, Martin Place, following the hostage standoff in Sydney yesterday. Pic/Getty Images
Media reports said two were killed and three others seriously injured in the raid.
One weeping woman (top right) could be seen being carried out by officers.
Just over five hours into the siege, five people, including a woman, were seen running out of the cafe. Two came out through the front door and one through the fire escape. It is still not known whether they were freed or escaped.
16 hours of Hell
The siege began after 9 am local time and was continuing well past midnight with Australian media identifying the gunman as Haron Monis (right), who was granted political asylum in Australia. The 50-year-old was described by his former lawyer as an isolated figure, who was acting alone.
A hostage runs from the cafe, towards armed tactical response police
The gunman, who arrived in Australia as a refugee in 1996, achieved notoriety after he sent letters to the families of Australian soldiers who lost their lives in Afghanistan, accusing them of being murderers.
In November last year, he was charged with being an accessory before and after the murder of his ex-wife, who was allegedly stabbed and set alight in her apartment complex. In March, he was charged with sexually and indecently assaulting a young woman in 2002.
One of the Indian men held hostage has been identified as Vishwakant Ankit Reddy, an Infosys employee in his mid-30s.
He has been working in Australia for the past seven years and is a native of Guntur in Andhra Pradesh.
He was at the Lindt Chocolate Cafe in Martin Place, the heart of Sydney’s business district when the gunman entered the cafe and took the people inside hostage in Australia’s largest city.
Soon after the hostage-taking incident, authorities sealed off surrounding streets, evacuated people from buildings, and suspended rail services following the siege in the capital of New South Wales.
NSW Police activated Task Force Pioneer, which they use in terrorism related incidents, to handle the pre-Christmas incident.
Sydney: Uber was promising free rides and refunds yesterday for people fleeing central Sydney after coming under criticism for hiking prices during the hostage crisis.
Uber was charging customers a minimum fare of AU$100 and four times the usual per-mile rate to leave the city centre. Uber said on its smartphone app that the rates had been increased because ‘Demand is off the charts!’
But Uber, which offers a service based on hailing taxis from its app, quickly backtracked after an outcry on social media. The company explained that it had used automatic “surge pricing” to encourage more drivers to get online and pick up passengers.
It wrote on its Sydney blog that it was in the process of refunding people who had already paid the excessive fares and was giving free rides to others wanting to leave.
“We are all concerned with the events happening in Sydney,” Uber wrote on the blog, adding that its thoughts were with those affected by the crisis and the New South Wales police force.