The New South Wales police force declared the siege over 16 hours after it began at around 09.45 a.m. Monday morning when a gunman laid siege to the Lindt cafe in a plaza in Sydney's financial and shopping district.
A man who ran from the Lindt cafe with his arms up after 02.00 a.m. was pat down by police who escorted him to safety, shortly before four more people fled the building, the Australian reported.
Police then charged the cafe amid rapid gunfire, which was followed by a second round as police and paramedics rushed in, some pushing stretchers.
A woman who appeared to be injured was carried away, as others received CPR.
According to Australia 9 news, two people were killed and carried out on stretchers, with one believed to be the gunman, self-proclaimed Iranian-born cleric Man Haron Monis, who was on bail for a number of mostly violent charges. An estimated 12 to 16 people were seen leaving the cafe.
Another female victim stretchered from the scene had suffered a gunshot wound to her shoulder, according to the channel.
Manny Conditsis, a former lawyer for Monis, told national news broadcaster ABC, "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."
Monis, who moved to Australia as a refugee in 1996, gained notoriety for sending offensive letters to the families of Australian soldiers who lost their lives in Afghanistan between 2007 and 2009, accusing them of being murderers.
In November 2013, he was charged with being an accessory to the murder of his ex-wife, who was reportedly stabbed and set on fire, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.
After his arrest this April over his alleged sexual assault of a woman in Sydney in 2002, 40 additional charges were filed against Monis as other victims came forward.
Last Friday, he failed to have the charges regarding the letters to soldiers’ families dropped, according to SMH.
Three people had exited the cafe in the Martin Place plaza approximately six hours after the siege began at 09.45 a.m., followed by two female Lindt employees.
Earlier, footage of hostages forced to hold a black flag with Arabic script believed to be the Islamic declaration of faith had been broadcast on television based on video shot through the cafe’s windows.
Amid speculations about the gunman and his possible group affiliation, a hashtag #illridewithyou had started trending as concerned Twitter users offered to commute to work Tuesday with people wearing Muslims garb.
In a statement, Prime Minister Tony Abbott called the incident “very disturbing,” saying it is “profoundly shocking that innocent people should be held hostage by an armed person claiming political motivation.”
Residents had been urged to avoid the Martin Plaza area.