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Summary

  1. Australian police have stormed a cafe in Sydney after a prolonged siege in which a gunman took a number of people hostage
  2. Shots have been heard and several hostages have been seen running from the Lindt cafe. Police now say the siege is over
  3. The gunman has been named as Man Haron Monis - a self-proclaimed cleric from Iran
  4. People inside the cafe were earlier forced to hold a black flag with Arabic writing at the window. All times GMT

Live Reporting

By Yaroslav Lukov, Sally Taft, Alastair Lawson, Jasmine Coleman, Amber Dawson and Thom Poole

All times stated are UK

  1. Post update

    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 to the BBC News website.

  2. Post update

    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."

  3. Laura Tunstall, 9 News Australia

    tweets: Injured police officer has been released from RNS Hospital. Will have to come back at a later date for surgery on cut to his hand @9NewsSyd

  4. Post update

    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".

  5. Kelly Fedor, Court Reporter, 9 News Australia

    tweets: We are now hearing the injured police officer is at another hospital, two other injured people here at RPA. #sydneysiege

  6. Post update

    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.

    Relatives of the hostages from the siege gather in Sydney (16 December 2014)
  7. Post update

    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".

  8. Post update

    New York Times Tehran correspondent Thomas Erdbrink tweets: Former classmate of Sydney attacker "Sheikh Haron" tells me he has never met a more crazier person in his life. "Completely nuts".

  9. Post update

    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.

  10. Tony Abbott, Prime Minister of Australia

    tweets: Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the two deceased hostages, the wounded and the other hostages. #sydneysiege

  11. Post update

    "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."

  12. Laura Tunstall, 9 News Australia

    tweets: 3 ppl being treated here at Royal North Shore Hospital including 39 yr old police officer with a bullet graze to the cheek @9NewsSyd

  13. Post update

    Police say that hostage-taker Man Haron Monis, 50, was shot and pronounced dead after being taken to hospital.

  14. Post update

    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."

  15. Post update

    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.

  16. Post update

    The cafe has been secured and there are no explosives still inside, police say.

  17. Post update

    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.

  18. Post update

    Police moved in when there was an exchange of gunfire inside the cafe, the news conference is told.

  19. Post update

    The emphasis now is looking after the hostages and their families, police say.

  20. Post update

    Police say that if they did not enter the cafe when they did, many more lives would have been lost.

  21. Post update

    Police have accounted for 17 hostages, two of whom are dead, police say at the press conference.

  22. Post update

    A police statement says that four people were injured in the incident.

  23. Post update

    The hostage taking stand-off was an isolated incident, police say.

  24. Post update

    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.

  25. BreakingBreaking News

    Australian police say three people were killed and four injured in the siege.

  26. Post update

    "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".

  27. Post update

    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.

    Two Muslim men perform prayers after the cafe siege in Sydney (16 December 2014)
  28. Post update

    ABC News tweets: #BREAKING: NSW Police confirm gunman from #SydneySiege is dead

  29. Chris Reason at Channel 7 News

    tweets: The casualties, unconfirmed: 2 dead, 3 seriously injured, including a police officer

  30. Australian actor Russell Crowe

    @russellcrowe

    tweets: Sending love Sydney. Stay patient..need everybody safe & a peaceful resolution . #illridewithyou

  31. Post update

    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.

  32. Post update

    Man Haron Monis has made numerous court appearances in Sydney over the last five years.

    Man Haron Monis bound in chains and holding an Australian flag outside a Sydney court after being charged with seven counts of unlawfully using the postal service to harass families of Australian soldiers (10 November 2009)
    Man Haron Monis outside a court in Sydney (10 November 2009)
    Man Haron Monis arrives for a pre-trial hearing in Sydney (18 April 2011)
  33. Post update

    A man who was leaving the Lindt cafe in Sydney just as the gunman arrived tells Australia's Daily Telegraph about his lucky escape.

  34. Post update

    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."

  35. Post update

    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.

    Police put body armour on ambulance personnel during the siege outside the cafe in Martin Place, Sydney (16 October 2014)
  36. Post update

    The full extent of injuries suffered by those who were held hostage is still not clear.

    Injured woman is carried away by an ambulance crew from the scene of the attack
  37. Post update

    A hostage and the gunman are believed to have died during the stand-off, media reports say.

  38. Post update

    Australia's jihadist problem is much bigger than Sydney's hostage crisis, the Washington Post says.

  39. Chris Reason at Channel 7 News

    tweets: By our calculations, there were 21 hostages. Five escaped this afternoon, then 7 more at 2am. So approx 9 were inside when police went in

  40. Post update

    "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,'' Man Haron Monis' former lawyer, Manny Conditsis, tells the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

  41. Post update

    The number of injuries among the hostages and the fate of the gunman are still not clear. We do know that several people were carried out from the scene on the stretchers.

  42. Post update

    To recap: The Sydney cafe siege is over after armed police stormed the building amid the sound of gunfire. The police are believed to have launched their operation after at least five more hostages escaped from the cafe - more than 16 hours after the stand-off began. Armed police and medics are at the scene and several people have been taken away on stretchers.

  43. Post update

    Nine News Australia's Airlie Walsh tweets: Family members are gathered on the steps of St James Court, waiting to be reunited with loved ones. Ambulance sirens wailing. #SydneySiege

  44. Post update

    A injured hostage is wheeled to an ambulance after shots were fired during a cafe siege at Martin Place
    Image caption: A injured hostage is taken to an ambulance after shots were fired during the cafe siege at Martin Place
  45. BreakingBreaking News

    New South Wales Police tweets: Sydney siege is over. More details to follow.

  46. Post update

    A person on the ground appeared to have been treated by medics.

    The scene outside the cafe
  47. Post update

    Terrified hostages were later seen running out from the cafe.

    Hostages run out of the cafe
  48. BreakingBreaking News

    Police have stormed the cafe where the gunman has been holding a number of people hostage, AP and Reuters news agencies say.

  49. Post update

    Emergency services brought in at least two stretchers to the scene. Earlier, medics appeared to be providing first aid to an injured person.

  50. Post update

    Shots appear to have been fired outside the cafe, Reuters images show.

  51. Post update

    Live footage showed police carrying out a crying woman - believed to be one of the hostages.

  52. Post update

    Reports also say a loud bang was heard in the area.

  53. BreakingBreaking News

    At least five more hostages escape from the cafe, media reports say.

  54. Post update

    Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweets: The incident in Sydney is disturbing. Such acts are inhuman & deeply unfortunate. I pray for everyone's safety.

  55. Post update

    Britain's Terry Waite - who was held hostage in Lebanon for four years - tells the BBC the best thing the hostages can do is keep their heads down, and not try to curry favour with the gunman. "As far as you can be cool, calm, controlled; answer the questions to the best of your ability, and just don't betray any sense of panic, because that sometimes can excite and cause hostage takers to behave excitedly themselves."

  56. Post update

    Jon Donnison

    BBC News, Sydney

    reports that Man Haron Monis is well known to the Australian police. The cleric is currently on bail for being an accessory to the murder of his ex-wife and is facing more than 40 sexual and indecent assault charges. Below is an archive image of the suspect.

    Man Haron Monis. File photo
  57. Post update

    More on the suspect. Man Haron Monis is also described as a self-proclaimed "spiritual healer", who dealt with black magic at in Sydney more than a decade ago, the Sydney Morning Herald reports.

  58. Post update

    Man Haron Monis is currently on bail for a string of violent offences and has a conviction for sending offensive letters to the families of deceased Australian soldiers, the BBC's Jon Donnison in Sydney reports.

  59. BreakingBreaking News

    Police say they believe the man who seized hostages is Man Haron Monis - an Iranian-born cleric who has been granted asylum in Australia.

  60. Post update

    Mr Dolnik tells the BBC World Service's Newshour programme: "If he's alone then he cannot take turns guarding hostages, cannot rest, so as long as this incident stretches out he will become so fatigued that from high-level demands he will start looking for a way out."

  61. Is the gunman tiring?

    Adam Dolnik, a hostage negotiator and Director of Terrorism Studies at the University of Wollongong in Australia, says the fact the gunman is alone and is likely to be tired could be used to negotiator's advantage.

  62. Contact us

    @GavinDFernando in Sydney tweets: #IllRideWithYou shows you shouldn't be scared to be Muslim. You should be scared to be racist.

  63. Hostage texts Mum during siege

    The mother of a man being held hostage tells Australian radio he texted her to say he was inside the Lindt cafe. The woman, identified as Mel, said: "He sent me a message saying 'I'm ok mum can't talk' and I haven't heard anything since."

  64. Tweet us

    @NicholasDole

    ABC journalist Nick Dole in Sydney tweets: A big group of ambulances & fire trucks assemble near Martin Place, preparing for any scenario. #sydneysiege

  65. Uber

    The car-sharing service Uber has faced criticism after apparently hiking prices for customers wanting to leave central Sydney. As the crisis unfolded, people in the area faced fees four times normal rates. The company said it had increased prices to encourage drivers into the area. But it later said journeys would be free.

  66. Post update

    Jon Donnison

    BBC News, Sydney

    "This massive police operation is still very much under way. We've just been down to the police cordon, about 500 metres away from the Lindt cafe, and there's still a lot of heavily armed police officers in the area. And what police are saying at the moment is they are urging patience, their ultimate goal is to get everyone out safely, and they are saying that might take some time."

  67. Post update

    BBC Newsbeat has looked at some of the selfies taken at the scene - including one using the hashtag #hostagesituationselfie - and the angry responses they have provoked on social media.

  68. Chris Reason, 7 News, Sydney

    tweets: There's been movement at the cafe, the gunman moving a hostage past the window, two more hostages change positions. Not much sleep in there

  69. Tweet us

    @magwood66 in Ballarat, Australia tweets: Great to see the no of people joining the #illridewithyou campaign as a result of #sydneysiege . Keep it up Oz and let's hope this is global

  70. Post update

    This is what the exclusion zone looks like, according to the latest information, as police continue to surround the cafe where the hostages are being held.

    BBC map showing exclusion zone after hostages were seized in central Sydney
  71. Chris Reason, 7 News Sydney

    tweets: Very little movement at the Lindt Cafe. One person, we believe to be the gunman, walking toward back office. He is carrying an iPad

  72. Post update

    Danielle McGrane, from Dublin, lives in Sydney where she works as a music journalist. She said: "The city feels eerily calm and quiet, especially for this time of year in the lead up to Christmas... Nobody said a word on the train home, it was the quietest train journey I've ever experienced on that line."

  73. Post update

    In their latest statement, police have urged people in Sydney to go about their business as usual on Tuesday. They are continuing to cordon off areas around the cafe and have advised on a number of closures.

  74. Laura Tunstall, 9News reporter

    tweets: 11pm and still plenty of onlookers here at Martin Place. All eyes on the cafe door. Praying we'll see more hostages released @9NewsSyd

  75. Post update

    Suzanne Williams, former head of the London Metropolitan Police unit for hostage negotiation, told the BBC: "The primary objective is to ensure the safety of the hostages above everything. Part of this is to reassure the hostage takers themselves - keep them calm, no surprises."

  76. Selfie outrage

    There has been strong criticism of people taking selfies earlier near the scene of the hostage taking incident, BuzzFeed reports. One tweet read: "People's lives are in danger and people are taking selfies in front of the Sydney siege, how disrespectful and idiotic."

  77. Post update

    BBC Trending

    looks at where the hashtag #illridewithyou started. Thousands of people have now joined the spontaneous campaign, offering to meet Muslim people at their local stations and to ride with them on their journey.

    Bag with message of support on it
  78. Post update

    It is late evening in Sydney now, and armed police have the Lindt cafe cordoned off and surrounded. This was the scene near the cafe a few moments ago.

    Police wait at the scene of the Sydney hostage taking incident
  79. 'Lone actor'

    No indications yet as to the hostage takers motives, but Anne Aly, head of the counter terrorism research programme at Australia's Curtin University, told the BBC's Outside Source programme he is likely to be working alone. "Certainly this appears to be the actions of a lone actor, perhaps not very well prepared, perhaps not very well planned, and the indications of the demands that he's making seem very odd for a hostage taking incident where you would expect materialistic or strategic demands to be made in connection with a particular group or cause."

  80. Post update

    The Sydney Morning Herald's editorial on the siege has "tested Australians as individuals, and Australia as a civil and democratic society". It says the next test will be for people in Sydney not to jump to conclusions about the motivations of the gunman.

  81. Post update

    Here's an update on the #illridewithyou hashtag on Twitter - it is currently the most popular trend worldwide, with more than 54, 477 tweets in the past hour.

  82. Post update

    The New South Wales government website has a map of the exclusion zone and will have updates on whether buildings such as the Supreme Court, which is nearby, will open on Tuesday.

  83. Clove Moore, Lord Mayor of Sydney

    tweets: Sydney is a safe & welcoming city, proud of its diversity. Great to see our best nature on show at a time like this. #illridewithyou

  84. Post update

    The Sydney siege is dominating Australian social media. The top ten terms trending on Twitter are on the situation, among them:

    #sydneysiege - more than 30,000 tweets in the past hour, 252,000 in the past 24 hours

    #illridewithyou - more than 24,000 tweets in the past hour. The hashtag emerged in the past couple of hours and in support of Muslims who may fear a backlash.

  85. Belgium: 'No links'

    As the hostage story continues in Australia, armed men have reportedly taken a man hostage in Belgium. But the authorities there have ruled out a connection. "There is no indication that this is linked to terrorism, the Islamic State or what is happening at the moment in Sydney," the Ghent prosecutor told AFP.

  86. Lucy Carter, Sydney Police reporter for ABC News

    @lucethoughts

    tweets: We know who the hostage taker is. We will not be reporting it on the request of @nswpolice. Hope other media outlets follow.

  87. Post update

    Phil Mercer

    BBC News, Sydney

    says the PM Tony Abbott summed up the mood of the nation earlier when he talked about how terrifying it must be for the hostages to go into night-time having been held captive for more than 12 hours. One can only guess the fear, the panic, the terror going through their minds, our correspondent adds.

  88. Mark Di Stefano, Buzzfeed

    tweets: At 9:40am the cafe hostage siege started. It's now 9:40pm. http://www.buzzfeed.com/bradesposito/martinplace

    Photo taken by Buzzfeed reporter Mark Di Stefano of the hostage scene in Sydney at 09:40 and 21:40 local time
  89. Post update

    BBC Monitoring

    The Australia hostage story has gained very little traction among online jihad supporters, who are often quick to link incidents with their cause, BBC Monitoring reports. Only a few Islamic State supporters reported the news, with one saying that the motives of the hostage-taker were unknown. No claims of responsibility by any group have been seen by BBC Monitoring.

  90. Post update

    Wendy Frew

    Australia editor, BBC News Online

    says: "The police appear to be preparing for the possibility the siege will continue into Tuesday morning and possibly longer. Commissioner Scipione has made it clear he does not want to put any of the hostages at risk by rushing the operation and he indicated at his latest press conference he would be calling in more police."

  91. Vigil

    A multi-faith vigil has been taking place at Australia's Lakemba Mosque, one of the country's largest. Samier Dandan, the president of the Lebanese Muslim Association, was there, and spoke to the BBC World Service's World Update programme: "The vigil crossed many different religious groups - Muslims, Catholics, Protestants, Jewish communities... This is a showcase and demonstration that the community can come together in solidarity and work together as a family to try to address whatever issue that we face collectively."

  92. Mike Baird, Premier for New South Wales and MP for Manly in Sydney

    @mikebairdMP

    tweets: Unless you work in an exclusion zone, please go about tomorrow as you normally would. Exclusion zones can be found at http://www.nsw.gov.au/exclusion-zone-sydney …

  93. Sydney Opera House

    @SydOperaHouse

    tweets: The Opera House has decided to cancel the children's performances scheduled for Tuesday 16 December, 2014. More: http://on.fb.me/1ISqQAw

  94. Black flag

    A black flag was the battle flag of the Prophet Muhammad and was carried into battle by many of his companions. Today a black flag with the white Arabic text of the "shahada", the basic statement of the Islamic faith, is used as a symbol of engagement in jihad, in the sense of holy war, by militant groups including al-Qaeda and Islamic State. The flag raised in the window of the coffee shop is similar but different to that of IS, which bears the first part of the shahada and the seal of the Prophet below it.

    People inside the cafe
    Image caption: Apparent hostages inside the cafe were seen holding up a black flag with Arabic script on it
  95. Post update

    Frank Gardner

    BBC security correspondent

    tweets: Only last year Sydney hosted International Hostage Negotiators conference. Many countries have rehearsed this situation. #SydneyCafeSiege

  96. Post update

    The BBC News website's Australia editor Wendy Frew describes "uneasy crowds" at the scene of the hostage taking earlier on Monday. The atmosphere in Martin Place itself was surreal, she says. Office workers who had been evacuated from their buildings, construction workers from nearby building sites and tourists packed the pedestrian plaza one block away from the Lindt coffee shop.

  97. Mark Di Stefano, Buzzfeed

    tweets: Sydney CBD is very quiet right now. Many pubs have the hostage situation on TVs. Rowdy bystanders have left Martin Place #sydneysiege

  98. 'It shakes me to the bone'

    Kathryn Cheem who works part-time at the Lindt cafe, described what it was like seeing her colleagues held hostage. "It shakes me to the bone, and they're people who I hold like another family," she told reporters. "You know I see them every day and hold them close to me.... It's good that I'm not there, but I just kind of wish that I could be there for them and tell them that everything's going to be all right."

  99. Post update

    People who work in Martin Place or nearby have been asked to work from home on Tuesday because of the hostage incident.

  100. 'Despicable rubberneckers'

    An opinion piece in the Herald Sun attacks what it calls the "despicable rubberneckers who took selfies and socked back beers and wine while they gawked at the Martin Place siege 100 metres away."

    "Lingering just so you can tweet a pic of yourself to your mates, or worse to grab a few coldies and settle in to watch the utter horror unfold like it's a movie at the cinema, is just deplorable," it adds.

  101. Post update

    There's a rundown on the BBC News website of what eyewitnesses have told the BBC they have seen so far.

  102. Negotiation tactics

    Ben Lopez, an expert in hostage negotiation, tells the BBC News Channel: "One of the reasons the police commissioner doesn't want to speculate too much is because it is very clear that the hostage taker is interested in media coverage. And one of the major things we want to do as hostage negotiators is control the flow of information in and out of the siege location. So if other people are calling in, or if the media is complicating things, it could make it difficult for the negotiators to do their job and to try to reach a safe outcome."

  103. Post update

    In the news conference, the police commissioner stressed the need for calm. "Clearly reprisal attacks are something that should not happen. At this stage, we need to let everyone just settle down."

  104. Post update

    Armed tactical response police personnel stand watch into the evening near a cafe under siege by a gunman at Martin Place in the central business district of Sydney, Australia, on 15 December 2014

    Armed police officers stand guard near the cafe as the hostage situation continues into the night.

  105. Post update

    You can read the whole statement from the Australian Muslim community condemning the attack on Facebook. It says: "The is a time for all Australians to stand together and support each other."

  106. Mark Di Stefano, BuzzFeed

    tweets: Police keep talking about this maybe "going into tomorrow". Anyone have long memories about long(est) hostage situations in Australia?

  107. Tweet us

    In Australia the hashtag #illridewith you is trending, as non-Muslims offer to travel with Muslims on public transport if they feel unsafe following the events in Sydney. This is some of the reaction to the hashtag:

    @Atozai in Sydney tweets: This is my Australia. Being a Muslim this hashtag is the best thing happened today. I Love You Australia. #illridewithyou

    @aaniqab in Queensland tweets: The #illridewithyou tag is seriously such a lovely approach in such horrid times. I feel safe. #sydneysiege

    @rizkysaidRtweets: hats off to you guys, you're awesome, faith in humanity restored #sydneysiege #illridewithyou

    @Daniel_Hatch in London tweets: The #illridewithyou movement absolutely makes me proud to be Australian. The correct social response to a terrible isolated incident.

  108. Post update

    More from the police commissioner: "I understand that no one has been injured, and if that is true we are grateful."

  109. Post update

    Police Commissioner Scipione says: "If people are being contacted by hostages, we would ask that they ensure that the gunman inside speaks to our trained negotiators. They are the people that can help in this situation." He tells the news conference he cannot confirm how many people are being held inside, or what their identities are.

  110. Post update

    Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione tells a news conference: "Our only goal is to get those people who are currently caught in that building out of there safely. Nothing will change."

  111. Post update

    Mike Baird, Premier of New South Wales, says: "I'm proud of how we have responded as a city, a state and a nation. But my thoughts remain with those caught up in this event."

  112. Post update

    ABC News in Australia is now reporting that the suspect is known to NSW Police. It says one of the country's commercial stations has received video from inside the cafe but are not broadcasting it.

  113. Post update

    The suspected gunman in the Sydney seige

    Australian news channels have broadcast this image apparently showing the suspected gunman. It is yet to be verified.

  114. Tweet us

    @MaryamFadzil in Melbourne tweets: Sydney mosque holding multi-faith prayers during maghrib as respond to #sydneysiege

  115. Post update

    Sky News reporter Chris Kenny, who was in the cafe moments before the attack took place, told the BBC's Newsday programme he saw "people up against the windows". They were "face first with their hands in their air," he said. "Just a horrific situation unfolding here."

  116. Post update

    Earlier, Australia's Muslim community released a joint statement saying it condemned "this criminal act unequivocally". The Australian National Imams Council and the Grand Mufti of Australia said that "such actions are denounced in part and in whole in Islam".

  117. Post update

    Mike Baird, New South Wales Premier

    tweets: At 8:15pm (09:15GMT) I'll be joining NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione to provide an update on the situation at Martin Place

  118. Post update

    Police have asked media organisations not to air any of the gunman's demands or what the hostages have told them in calls from the cafe.

  119. Post update

    BBC Monitoring's Catherine Gusse describes media reaction around the world. She says contributors on television news channels in Iran and China have been speculating about the possible political motives for the attack. Russia's Channel One says "a new epoch may have begun for prosperous Australia, which has been keeping its neutrality for a long time".

  120. Post update

    Channel 7 reporter Chris Reason, who has a direct line of sight of the cafe, says that when the five hostages escaped, the gunman could be seen getting extremely agitated, shouting at remaining hostages

  121. Post update

    Josh Acton, who works in a building opposite the cafe, told the BBC about the moment the situation unfolded. "All the police cars started to turn up, and undercover police came running at everyone saying 'Clear the area immediately, get out'," he said. "We were in lockdown for most of the day and we've managed to evacuate about an hour ago. Everything is closed off, there's police on every corner and they're doing their best to contain the situation and keep people calm."

  122. Post update

    A hostage runs to safety outside the Lindt Cafe, Martin Place on 15 December 2014 in Sydney, Australia

    Here's another image of one of the five people who fled the cafe earlier.

  123. Post update

    Frank Gardner

    BBC security correspondent

    says the black and white flag displayed by the gunmen in Sydney is similar but not the same as the Islamic State flag, which is a much cruder script. He says this one is essentially the same Arabic inscription from the Koran as that displayed on the Saudi national flag, which uses a green rather than a black background.

  124. Post update

    Most people on Twitter are urging people to show calm and not target any specific community over the incident, says BBC Monitoring's Vikas Pandey. However, some others have been quick to blame the jihadist group, Islamic State, for the siege.

  125. Post update

    On social media, the hashtag #sydneysiege is the top global trend on Twitter. Other hashtags like #siege, #MartinPlace are also trending.

  126. Post update

    @BBCr4Today

    tweets: BBC's Frank Gardner on #SydneySiege: "This is not a sophisticated siege...the gunman has got the wrong [Islamic] flag" #r4today

  127. Post update

    Channel 7 reporter Chris Reason, who has a direct line of sight of the cafe, reports: "All the hostages now huddled at one end of Lindt Cafe, one is covering the window at that end with an apron." Earlier he saw food being brought out from kitchen by staff and distributed to other hostages.

  128. Post update

    Twitter users are circulating a screenshot of a woman's Facebook post, where she says she is a hostage, and lists the gunman's demands. The screenshot was purportedly taken by a friend of the woman. Police have said they are monitoring all communication channels.

  129. New South Wales Police

    @nswpolice

    New South Wales Police tweets: Deputy Commissioner Burn: "Our approach is to resolve the situation as peacefully as possible. The priority is the safety of all involved."

  130. Post update

    Earlier PM Tony Abbott praised the people of Sydney for "the calmness with which they have reacted to this disturbing incident". He said: "We are a free, open and generous people and today we have responded to this in character.... Yes it has been a difficult day. Yes it is a day which has tested us but so far, like Australians in all sorts of situations, we have risen to the challenge."

  131. Tweet us

    Zeynep Ertuk in Sydney tweets: Sydney CBD is a ghost town, was sent home from work because its so quiet! Hope the #MartinPlaceSiege ends peacefully! #SydneyHostageCrisis

  132. Post update

    David Cameron

    British Prime Minister

    has tweeted: I was briefed overnight on the siege in Sydney. It's deeply concerning and my thoughts are with all those caught up in it.

  133. Post update

    Deputy police commissioner Catherine Burn says that the five hostages who left the cafe "are now being assessed to make sure their health is okay and then police will talk to them". She would not confirm how many are left in the cafe.

  134. Post update

    One of the hostages runs towards police from a cafe in the central business district of Sydney on 15 December 2014
    A hostage runs to armed tactical response police officers for safety after she escaped from a cafe under siege at Martin Place in the central business district of Sydney, Australia, Monday, 15 December 2014

    Here are images from earlier of two women who fled the cafe. They were wearing brown uniforms with the Lindt logo.

  135. Post update

    New South Wales deputy police commissioner Catherine Burn told reporters she cannot confirm demands by the gunman as reported by media outlets. "We have to deal with him on the level of police negotiation. We cannot engage in speculation."

  136. Post update

    If you are just joining us, the latest situation is that armed police are surrounding the cafe and officers have made contact with the gunman. Five people have been seen running from the building but it is not clear how many remain inside. A black Islamic flag has been displayed at the window.

  137. Post update

    We have recently moved to a new page on the website. Please click on the original link to view updates from the past seven hours.

  138. Post update

    Welcome to the BBC's live updates on the hostage situation in Sydney, Australia, where a gunman is holding staff and customers inside the Lindt cafe in the city centre.