UPDATES: Gunman in Sydney Hostage-Taking ID'd as Iranian Refugee
The hostage situation at a Sydney, Australia cafe has ended. Explosions were heard and several shots fired as police stormed the cafe where an Iranian gunman had been holding hostages.
Ambulance crews entered the building. Watch the situation unfold in the clip above.
Police in Sydney later confirmed that the gunman was killed along with two hostages. A policeman was shot in the face, but is said to be in good condition.
Stay tuned for more updates below
A standoff between Australian authorities and a gunman holding an unknown number of hostages in a Sydney cafe continues after more than 13 hours.
Greg Palkot reported this morning that a man with a pump-action shotgun wearing a backpack walked into a busy cafe in the center of Sydney, taking at least 13 people hostage.
In the hours since the standoff started, hostages have been forced to stand at the cafe window, some holding a banner with an Islamic declaration of faith written on it.
Five hostages have managed to escape.
Palkot reported that the gunman has made demands, including a real ISIS flag and a talk with Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott.
Palkot said that claims that there were bombs inside the cafe and around downtown Sydney have not been substantiated.
Television footage shot through the Lindt Chocolat Cafe's windows showed several people with their arms in the air and hands pressed against the glass, and two people holding up a black flag with the Shahada, or Islamic declaration of faith, written on it. Translated, the statement says, "There is no god but God and Muhammad is his messenger." It is considered the first of Islam's five pillars of faith, and is similar to the Lord's Prayer in Christianity. It is pervasive throughout Islamic culture, including the green flag of Saudi Arabia. Jihadis have used the Shahada in their own black flag.
Australian broadcaster Network Ten reported that the unidentified gunman has forced hostages to call him "The Brother" and demanded a flag of the Islamic State terror group in return for the release of a hostage. He has also demanded to speak directly with Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott.
The broadcaster reported that the gunman had relayed his demands to them through two hostages. The man also claimed that he had planted two bombs inside the cafe and two others elsewhere in Sydney's central business district.
New South Wales Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione addressed concerns about explosive devices elsewhere in Sydney, telling a press conference Monday evening that authorities were concentrating their efforts solely on the cafe and were not concerned with any other location
Late Monday, Abbott released a pre-recorded statement calling the attack "very disturbing" and "profoundly shocking." His office has not responded to the gunman's demands.
Three men were seen running from a fire exit of the cafe approximately six hours after the hostage situation began at 9:45 a.m. local time (5:45 p.m. ET Sunday). Shortly after the men escaped, two women, one after another, sprinted from the cafe and into the arms of heavily armed police. Both were wearing aprons with the Lindt chocolate logo, indicating they were cafe employees. One of the men who escaped also appeared to be an employee. It was not immediately clear how the hostages escaped.
Burn said that the first priority was the wellbeing of the people who escaped, after which police would question them to gain more information about the situation inside. She added that police believe that there is only one gunman and had no further information about a possible motive.
UPDATE, 9:15a ET: On "America's Newsroom," we heard the gunman identified as 49-year-old Sheik Man Haron Monis, described as an Iranian cleric with a criminal past.
He was in jail, but had been released on bail. He was charged with sending odd "condolence letters" to the family members of Australian soldiers, telling them their family member "is a child killer.”
Monis was born in Iran then moved to Australia. Greg Palkot reported that Monis had also been charged as an accessory to the killing of an ex-wife and also faced charges for sexual indecency.
Martha MacCallum discussed the suspect's apparent ties to Islamic radicals with Steve Emerson of the Investigative Project on Terrorism.
Emerson said Monis had published an online pledge to ISIS on his website a month ago, offering to be a martyr for Islam.
He said it's difficult for authorities to stop attacks when a suspect acts alone.
UPDATE, 10:45a ET: The hostage situation ended at around 2:30am local time, with gunfire and explosions heard near the Lindt store.
Police stormed the cafe shortly after several hostages ran from the location. The condition of the gunman and the remaining hostages is not yet known.
Steve Emerson of the Investigative Project on Terrorism said that according to sources he spoke to, police moved in based on increasing concern that Monis would detonate explosives.
Watch Emerson's analysis below.
UPDATE, 1:54p ET: In a press conference this afternoon, Commissioner of the New South Wales Police Force Andrew Scipione said that 2 hostages and the gunman are dead.
Scipione said there were 17 hostages, 5 of whom escaped yesterday. 6 of the remaining hostages are uninjured.
A police officer was shot in the face when storming the cafe, but he is in good condition, according to Scipione.
Watch the press conference below.
See the harrowing situation unfold in these photos from The Associated Press:
Watch more above and get insight from Erick Stakelbeck on Australia's history with terrorism below: