What we know
New South Wales police have confirmed that three people, including a gunman, have died after a siege at a cafe in Sydney.
Police said the gunman, named as Man Haron Monis - a self-styled "sheikh", died in hospital after a confrontation with armed police as well as a 34-year-old man and a 38-year-old woman.
At current calculations, police say they believe there were 17 hostages being held at the Lindt Chocolat Café in Martin Place in Sydney's Central Business District on Monday.
The situation began at 9.45am in Australia (or 10:45pm in Britain) and ended 17 hours later.
Armed officers surrounded the cafe, where staff and customers were forced to hold what appeared to be a black Islamic flag against the window by a gunman.
A series of loud bangs and what sounded like gunfire occurred in and around the cafe before police confirmed the siege was over at 2.45am (3.45pm GMT).
Live video footage from the scene showed a number of hostages run out of the cafe shortly before police announced the siege was over.
It was confirmed by police that live ammunition was used in the building.
Several people were seen leaving the cafe on stretchers.
Before the siege ended television footage shot through the 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.One of the hostages runs towards police from a cafe in the central business district of Sydney
The Shahada translates as "There is no God but Allah 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 expropriated the Shahada in their own black flag.
What else has been reported
Local reports suggested that between three and four people were injured in the siege.
Officials at a hospital in Sydney said that a hostage was receiving treatment for a gunshot wound to the leg.
The wounded hostage, a woman in her 40s, was in serious but stable condition at Royal North Shore Hospital, spokeswoman Jenny Dennis said.
A bomb disposal robot has also been sent into the building, according to reports.
The Sydney Morning Herald reported the gunman has also gone by the names Sheikh Haron and Mohammad Hassan Manteghi.
It is understood that five hostages who first left the building had escaped rather than been released by the gunman. One woman who escaped has been widely named as Elly Chen.
Lindt Australia posted a message on its Facebook page thanking the public for its support.
Police say an exclusion zone set up around the cafe will be kept in place for the morning and have asked people who work in the CBD to work from home on Tuesday if they can.
What has been said
This morning I come before you with the heaviest of hearts, unbelievable overnight we have lost some of our own in an attack we never thought we would see here in our city. In the past 24 hours this city has been shaken.
The values we held dear yesterday, we hold dear today. the values of freedom, democracy and harmony.
We need to actually find out what’s happened here and what’s happened inside that cafe. It’s not time to speculate or to develop theories. We are going to work through facts and we will advise you as soon as we can.
- NSW police commissioner Andrew Scipione