It is apparently over. More details as they become available. “Shots Fired in Sydney Hostage Situation,” Arutz Sheva, December 15, 2014:
Multiple shots and/or bangs have been heard in Sydney outside the cafe where hostages are being held.
The fire appears to be coming from police.
ABC video: More hostages escape, police enter building
“Gunshots at Sydney hostage scene,” CNN, December 15, 2014:
SYDNEY (CNN) —Gunfire erupted early Tuesday at the Sydney cafe where a gunman has been holding hostages.
Police could be seen throwing flash-bang grenades into the cafe in video aired by CNN affiliate Seven Network.
At least one person has been shot, Australian state broadcaster ABC reported. Medics were performing CPR on two people, the broadcaster reported.
The fate of the hostages and the gunman, identified by an official with direct knowledge of the situation as Man Haron Monis, was unclear Tuesday.
Hundreds of police officers, including snipers, had surrounded the Lindt Chocolate Cafe in Sydney’s central business district shortly after the gunman took over the building at 10 a.m. Monday (6 p.m. ET on Sunday).
Chilling images from Australian media on Monday showed people, believed to be hostages, with their hands pressed against the cafe’s windows. They were holding up a black flag with Arabic writing on it reading, “There is no God but God and Mohammed is the prophet of God.”
Five hostages sprinted out of the cafe toward heavily armed police officers several hours into the standoff, sending the gunman into an agitated tirade, according to an Australian reporter.
Chris Reason, a correspondent for CNN affiliate Seven Network, said the gunman became “extremely agitated” when he realized what had happened and “started screaming orders” at the remaining hostages.
Reason said he could see the gunman pacing past the cafe’s windows from his vantage point at the network’s nearby offices. He described the man as unshaven, wearing a white shirt and black cap and carrying a shotgun.
The gunman made his demands for a flag and phone call through hostages who contacted several media organizations, CNN affiliate Sky News Australia reported.
Why not report the fact that he asked for an Islamic State flag?
Some had also reportedly posted messages to social networking sites and the YouTube online video service. Police urged media early Tuesday not to show the videos.
The gunman has been identified as Man Haron Monis, an official with direct knowledge of the situation told CNN.
Also known as Sheikh Haron, he pleaded guilty in 2013 to writing letters to Australian service members saying they were “Hitler’s soldiers,” according to Australian media reports.
He is probably acting alone and does not appear to be part of a broader plot, additional U.S. law enforcement and intelligence sources say.
Beyond the demands for the flag and phone call, precisely what he wants remained murky late Monday….