Timeline of the key events in the Sydney siege armed hostage crisis in Australia.
AS IT HAPPENED: TIMELINE OF SYDNEY SIEGE EVENTS
This is the live blog of the Sydney hostage crisis, as it was being reported by Australian media.
02:49am AEDT: NSW have officially declared an end to the hostage crisis. There are still very few details about the storming of the cafe by armed personnel or about the extent of any injuries to them, the hostages or the gunman.
02:018am AEDT: It is being reported that armed police stormed the Lindt cafe. There was a flurry of gunfire and explosions could be heard. People appear to be being ferried into ambulances. It is unclear if they are hostages or police officers.
02:014am AEDT: There has been a dramatic turn in events. There appears to have been a flurry of gunshots at the scene. Television news channels are showing police carrying people from the building who appear to be wounded.
02:04am AEDT: More hostages appear to have emerged from the Lindt Cafe, safely.
01:01am AEDT (Tuesday 16/12/2014): Police have named the suspect gunman in the siege as Man Haron Monis. He is said to be currently released on bail for a string of up to 40 violent offences. It is understood that he is also know to police for sending offensive letters to the families of deceased Australian Defence Force personnel.
11:40pm: AEDT: Channel 7 News journalists and staff have been allowed back into their Martin Place newsroom by police. Their offices and studio are directly across the road from the Lindt Cafe where hostages are still being held by a gunman. Channel 7 were the first news organisation to broadcast images of the unfolding siege at the cafe, on their live The Morning Show programme, but quickly ceased broadcasting at the request of police. Tonight a Channel 7 reporter said he witnessed food being delivered to the cafe before the lights in the premises at the centre of the siege were apparently turned off.
10:50pm AEDT: Sydney Muslim community leader, Jamal Rifi, has told Sky News Australia that he knows the suspect gunman’s identity and that he believes NSW Police are also fully aware of the identity of the hostage taker. The suspect is yet to be named.
10:15pm AEDT: Sydney Lord Mayor, Clover Moore, has tweeted: “Sydney is a safe & welcoming city, proud of its diversity. Great to see our best nature on show at a time like this.”
08:23pm AEDT: NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione, speaking after the premier, says that tonight the only goal is to get the remaining hostages out safely. He is still is unable, or unwilling, to say how many hostages remain inside the Lindt Cafe in Martin Place.
08:20pm AEDT: NSW Premier Mike Baird is giving another press conference. He praises police and the city of Sydney as being “exemplary” in their response. He also notes the support he has received from the city’s Muslim leaders. He urges people who work in the exclusion zone to stay home tomorrow but otherwise encourages Sydney to go about life as usual.
08:01pm AEDT: Reports are emerging that the suspect gunman was previously known to police.
07:11pm AEDT: The ABC have confirmed that they have been contacted by hostages in the siege and been issued with a set of demands on behalf of the gunman. On the advice of police, they are not broadcasting those demands. It is believed that other media organisations have similarly been contacted by hostages still in the cafe.
06:46pm AEDT: Police say an exclusion zone is being enforced around Martin Place but that other buildings are operating as normal.
06:34pm AEDT: Many places of worship across Australia, including, synagogues, churches and mosques, are inviting the followers to gather tonight to pray for the safety of the hostages and a peaceful resolution to the crisis.
06:16pm AEDT: British Prime Minister David Cameron 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.”
05:03pm AEDT: Two more women, apparently hostages, have been seen fleeing the cafe in to the safe arms of nearby police. They were both wearing what appear to be the aprons of workers at the cafe. It brings the total number of people who have either escaped or been freed from the cafe to five. It is still unknown exactly how many hostages remain inside.
04:24pm AEDT: Earlier this afternoon Abu Mohamed, Australia’s top Islamic cleric, released a statement condemning the actions of the gunman. “The Grand Mufti and the Australian National Imams Council condemn this criminal act unequivocally and reiterate that such actions are denounced in part and in whole in Islam,” the statement read, in part.
04:02pm AEDT: NSW Police Deputy Commissioner Catherine Burn has confirmed to reporters that the three people seen exiting the cafe were among the hostages held inside. She was unable to confirm how many hostages were still being held inside the building and stated that the gunman’s motivations were still unknown.
03:42pm AEDT: The ABC is reporting that two people have come out of the front door of the cafe and one out the fire door, with their hands above their heads, and they appear to be safe.
03:37pm AEDT: Police have locked down several blocks in the Martin Place area of the Sydney CBD. They have issued a telephone number to call for people who have information about the ongoing incident and those who fear friends and family may be among the hostages – 1800 227 228.
02:28pm AEDT: Sydney radio station 2GB has tweeted about the claim by their presenter that one of the hostages contacted him while on air: “To clarify, Ray Hadley was contacted by the hostage, the call was taken off air and then confirmed by the Police Commissioner,” the tweet by the station’s official Twitter account states.
02:12pm AEDT: New Zealand PM John Key has tweeted: “I’ve contacted Prime Minister @TonyAbbottMHR to let him know our thoughts are with the people of Australia today.”
02:02pm AEDT: NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione is speaking to reporters. He says authorities are on a footing consistent with a terrorist event and hundreds of officers are involved.
He has confirmed that “We have an armed offender holding an undisclosed number of hostages” and says police are “yet to make contact with the offender”. He could not confirm the number of hostages.
01:55pm AEDT: NSW Premier Mike Baird is giving a press conference. He says “we are being tested”.
“We will get through this. Our thoughts and prayers are with those caught up in the situation.” He adds: “We are with you.”
01:33pm AEDT: The Arabic inscription on the flag which was held up at the window of the Lindt Cafe has been translated as: “There is no god but Allah and Mohammad is the messenger of God”.
01:14pm AEDT: It is being reported that the Sydney Opera House has been opened again after being earlier evacuated as a precaution, reportedly in relation to a suspect package.
01:01pm AEDT: The ABC is reporting that US President Barack Obama is taking briefings on the incident. The US Consulate is located in the Martin Place area.
12:58pm AEDT: Prime Minister Tony Abbott has made a brief statement to media urging calm and saying that the normal business of government would go on today. Notably, although he recognized the incident had the appearance of being “politically motivated”, he did not use the word ‘terrorism’:
“We have to appreciate that even in a society such as ours, there are people who would wish to do us harm, that’s why we have police and security organisations of the utmost professionalism that are ready and able to respond to a whole range of situations and contingencies including this situation that we are now seeing in Sydney. The whole point of politically motivated violence is to scare people out of being themselves. Australia is a peaceful, open, and generous society. Nothing should ever change that and that’s why I would urge all Australians today to go about their business as usual.”
12:43pm AEDT: Canada’s prime minister, Stephen Harper, has tweeted that Canada’s thoughts and prayers are with Australia.
12:41pm AEDT: Federal Labor opposition leader, Bill Shorten, has released a statement on the Sydney siege:
“Our thoughts and prayers today are with the innocent people involved in this morning’s incident in Martin Place, Sydney. Our thoughts are also with their families who are seeing this incredibly distressing situation unfold, along with the rest of Australia. I have full confidence in the skill and professionalism of our police and security agencies. I have spoken to Prime Minister Tony Abbott this morning and offered him the Opposition’s full support at this time. Australians can be assured that we are one when it comes to keeping Australians safe.”
12:39pm AEDT: Prime Minister Tony Abbott is due to give a press conference from Parliament House in Canberra momentarily.
12:23pm AEDT: A man was reportedly arrested by police near the area of the siege however it has been confirmed it was not related to the hostage incident.
11:53am AEDT: NSW police have issued a statement urging calm:
“There is a police operation underway at Martin Place. Police and emergency services have responded and a number of streets around the area have been closed. The Martin Place train station is also shut. Police are dealing with an armed incident and specialist officers are attempting to make contact those inside a cafe. Some nearby offices have been evacuated as a precaution. Anyone else in the area encompassing Hunter, George, Elizabeth and Macquarie streets bordering Martin Place is directed to remain indoors and away from open windows. Anyone in the vicinity but outside that area is free to leave their buildings. Police urge members of the public to remain calm and note that an appropriate police presence is in place. Police urge the media to be responsible in their reporting. Speculation can cause unnecessary alarm.”
11:36am AEDT: Australian prime minister Tony Abbott has issued a statement about the siege in Martin Place, describing it as “a deeply disturbing incident”.
“New South Wales police and the Australian federal police are currently responding to a reported hostage-taking incident in Martin Place in Sydney. I have spoken with NSW premier Mike Baird and offered him all possible commonwealth support and assistance. The national security committee of cabinet has also convened for briefings on the situation. This is obviously a deeply concerning incident but all Australians should be reassured that our law enforcement and security agencies are well trained and equipped and are responding in a thorough and professional manner. We will provide regular updates as further information becomes available.”
11:23am AEDT: 2GB Radio presenter Ray Hadley has told listeners that a hostage taker has said they want to speak to Prime Minister Tony Abbott live on air. This has not been confirmed by any other sources though.
10:56am AEDT: A black flag with white Arabic writing has been held up at the window of the café, apparently by those being held hostage inside. Other people have been seen inside the café with their hands raised in the air.
10:40am AEDT: An apparent hostage situation is reportedly taking place at the Lindt Café in Martin Place in Sydney’s CBD.
TOP IMAGE: Channel 7’s Morning Show broadcast images of apparent hostages holding up a black flag with white Islamic text at the window of the Lindt Cafe in Martin Place, Sydney Australia. The Channel 7 news room is across the road from the cafe where the incident is taking place. The network ceased its live coverage soon after broadcasting these images.