SYDNEY — Police say three people are dead, including the gunman, after heavily armed police stormed the cafe in the heart of Sydney early Tuesday.

The raid ended the siege by an Iranian-born gunman, identified as Man Haron Monis, who had held an unknown number of hostages for more than 16 hours.

The standoff ended when a loud bang was heard from the Lindt Chocolat Cafe and five people ran out. Shortly after, police swooped into the building, amid a flurry of more loud bangs, shouts and flashes. A police bomb disposal robot also was sent into the building.

A police spokesman confirmed “the operation is over.”

A female hostage was shot in the leg, a hospital official said, and earlier at least two people were wheeled out of the cafe on stretchers. A weeping woman was helped out by police.

One gurney was rolled out carrying what appeared to be a man lying under a blood-soaked sheet with a bloody handprint in the center. A woman with blood-covered feet lay on a second.

Monis has long been on officials’ radar. Last year, he was sentenced to 300 hours of community service for using the postal service to send what a judge called “grossly offensive” letters to families of soldiers killed in Afghanistan between 2007 and 2009.

At the time, Monis said his letters were “flowers of advice,” adding: “Always, I stand behind my beliefs.”

He was later charged with being an accessory to the murder of his ex-wife. Earlier this year, he was charged with the sexual assault of a woman in 2002. He has been out on bail on the charges.

“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,” his former lawyer, Manny Conditsis, told Australian Broadcasting Corp.

“His ideology is just so strong and so powerful that it clouds his vision for common sense and objectiveness,” Conditsis said.

 

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