Australian commandos have stormed a cafe in Sydney, ending a 16-hour siege by a gunman identified as an Iranian refugee who took dozens of hostages.
Paramedics carrying stretchers raced towards the cafe moments after the commandos entered the building. Several people were injured. Unconfirmed local reports said two people, including the gunman, died.
The centre of the city has been in lockdown since the gunman seized the hostages early on Monday morning.
Early in the siege, hostages were forced to hold up a black Islamic banner at the window.
The cafe is located in Martin Place, a busy shopping area in Sydney’s financial district.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott said it was “profoundly shocking” that people were being “held hostage by an armed person claiming political motivation”.
Army commandos with assault rifles and wearing helmets and body armour could be seen piling into the cafe, tossing stun grenades ahead of them, and apparently opening fire.
Hostages ran to safety with their hands in the air. A man and a woman were seen being carried to safety by emergency services.
New South Wales police announced the end of the siege at 02:44 local time (15:44 GMT) in a tweet, promising details later.
The commandos who stormed the building were from the Royal Australian Regiment, BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner reports.
Suspected gunman Man Haron Monis, 49, received political asylum in Australia in 1996 and was on bail facing a number of charges.
On a website, now suspended, he describes himself as a Shia Muslim who converted to Sunni Islam.
The self-styled cleric was described by his former lawyer as an isolated figure.
One of his demands was to have a flag of Islamic State, the Sunni militant group which recently seized territory in Syria and Iraq, to be delivered to the cafe.
Martin Place is home to the state premier’s office and the headquarters of major banks.
In September, Australia – which has sent fighter jets to join the US-led coalition conducting air strikes against Islamic State in Iraq – carried out a big anti-terror raid.
One man was charged with plotting to behead a member of the public in Martin Place.
In October, the Australian parliament approved new anti-terrorism laws, including a provision designed to stop Australians fighting in overseas conflicts. – BBC News