The BBC's live coverage of the Sydney cafe siege has now come to an end. Thanks for staying with us. For all the updates on this and other stories, please go tothe BBC News website.
- Australian police have stormed a cafe in Sydney after a prolonged siege in which a gunman took a number of people hostage
- Shots have been heard and several hostages have been seen running from the Lindt cafe. Police now say the siege is over
- The gunman has been named as Man Haron Monis - a self-proclaimed cleric from Iran
- People inside the cafe were earlier forced to hold a black flag with Arabic writing at the window. All times GMT
As we bring the BBC's live coverage of the hostage stand-off to an end,an editorial in the Australian argues that whatever "the deranged motivation" behind it, it still succeeded in achieving three outcomes. First, it attracted immediate global coverage. Second, it crippled the centre of the country's biggest city, 10 days before Christmas. And third, it planted "a new wariness in ordinary Australians going about their daily lives". "For many of us," the editorial says, "the crisis made the realities of terrorism, whatever its source, hit home hard."
While it is true that the vast majority of Australia's Muslims are peaceful and productive citizens,an editorial in Australia's Daily Telegraph says, it is also true that "a significant minority of our Muslim community harbours extremist views that are abhorrent to all Australians, including fellow members of their faith". The editorial warns that Australians will now have to adapt "to a new reality" - "we are now in the front line of a terror conflict".
It has been a harrowing day for relatives of the hostages, who had to wait many hours before hearing news of the fate of their loved ones.
Adam Houda, a well-known Sydney solicitor who had represented Man Haron Monis, is the latest in a long line of people to question the dead gunman's sanity, describing him as "mad as a cut snake".
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marziyeh Afkham has condemned hostage taker Man Haron Monis, arguing that his poor mental condition was "obvious". Mrs Afkham said that Iran had repeatedly raised concerns about Monis - an asylum seeker from Iran - to Australian officials over the last two decades. She said that resorting to violence in the name of Islam was not acceptable.
"In the past 24 hours this city has been shaken by a tragedy that none of us could have ever imagined," New South Wales Premier Mike Baird said at the start of the police news conference in Sydney. "Today we must come together as never before. We are stronger together. We will get through this. Unbelievably overnight we have lost some of our own in an attack we never thought we would see here in our city."
Police say that hostage-taker Man Haron Monis, 50, was shot and pronounced dead after being taken to hospital.
New South Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione tells the news conference: "We have a male police officer who has been injured as a result of a gunshot wound to the face. I have talked to that officer. He is in good condition. He is currently being assessed and will be remaining in hospital for some time. Not too long, we hope, but he is well and grateful to be alive, let me assure you."
Police have just held a news conference in Sydney on the cafe attack. In it, they said that if they did not attack the premises when they did, more people would have died.
They would not reveal whether the two hostages killed were caught in crossfire or shot by the gunman.
The cafe has been secured and there are no explosives still inside, police say.
There was a "vicious horrendous attack" that has taken place in our city, police say, and all questions relating to it will be answered in the days and weeks ahead.
Police moved in when there was an exchange of gunfire inside the cafe, the news conference is told.
The emphasis now is looking after the hostages and their families, police say.
Police say that if they did not enter the cafe when they did, many more lives would have been lost.
Police have accounted for 17 hostages, two of whom are dead, police say at the press conference.
A police statement says that four people were injured in the incident.
The hostage taking stand-off was an isolated incident, police say.
Police say that the dead include a 34-year-old man, a 38-year-old woman and a 50-year-old man who it is thought to be gunman Man Haron Monis.
Australian police say three people were killed and four injured in the siege.
"The decision as to when to go into an operation and use force is a fine balance and its about gain," Henderson Risk Limited CEO Duncan Bullivant told the BBC. "If time is going to give you the gain for a peaceful negotiation, you've got to negotiate. "But if the negotiations, or the people you're negotiating with, seem unstable or you're moving to a point where the people on the ground believe that there is a risk to the hostages then force has to be used".
Two Muslim men performed prayers for peace in the aftermath of the hostage-taking incident near to the cafe where it took place. In a statement, several Muslim groups in Australia criticised the gunman's actions.
Reports say the New South Wales police are due to hold a news conference shortly. Will bring you all the latest updates and reaction to this fast moving story.
Man Haron Monis has made numerous court appearances in Sydney over the last five years.
Australia's 2EU Radio reporter Leonie Ryan tells the BBC that - according to "well-placed police sources" - the decision to storm the cafe "was completely unplanned". She says: "We're hearing reports that Man Haron Monis actually fired the first shots. Police made the decision to storm into the cafe after hearing gunfire."
Police and emergency services speedily moved into the cafe area shortly after five or six hostages were seen fleeing the building. Loud bangs and shots were also heard.
The full extent of injuries suffered by those who were held hostage is still not clear.
A hostage and the gunman are believed to have died during the stand-off, media reports say.