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UPDATE: 12/15/2014 2:15 P.M. 

An official press release has confirmed that three people have died in the Sydney hostage takedown, including the shooter, 50-year-old Man Haron Monis. Seventeen people were taken hostage and two women and a police officer were hospitalized with non-threatening injuries.

UPDATE: 12/15/2014 12:00 P.M. 

Man Haron Monis, the gunman has been reported be to be one of the two dead in the Sydney hostage shooting. 11 hostages have been counted with two injured.

After 16 hours of terror, police have managed to help hostages escape from a shop in Sydney, Australia where a man identified as Man Haron Monis held them at gunpoint Monday morning.

The gunman, who identifies as a Muslim cleric, held up the Lindt Chocolate Cafe in Sydney’s financial district at 9:45 a.m. local time (5:45 p.m. ET on Sunday). An estimated 15 people were in the building at the time. Monis forced the hostages to face the window and hold up a black Islamic flag that reads, “There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his messenger.”

Six hostages were able to escape on their own, with some sneaking out the back of the store. ABC News reports two people have died in the hostage takedown, with five injured.

Police fired off flash bangs into the cafe as they entered to end the siege. According to the BBC:

Mr. Monis is currently on bail for being an accessory to the murder of his former wife. He has also been convicted of sending offensive letters to the families of deceased Australian soldiers.

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

There are reports that one of his demands is for the flag of the Islamic State (IS) militant group to be delivered to the cafe, the BBC’s Jon Donnison reports.

Shortly after the siege began people thought to be employees and visibly distressed could be seen holding up to the window a black flag bearing a declaration of the Islamic faith in Arabic. This was not, however, an IS flag.

Hostages were seen leaving the cafe with officers:

Monis reportedly has upwards of 40 sexual assault cases to his name. He is also currently out on bail pending more charges.

The Iranian-born 50-year-old fled to Australia in 1996, but came to prominence after 2007, when he began sending “hate mail” to families of soldiers, who died while fighting in Iraq. Despite claiming to be a peace advocate, and even chaining himself to a courthouse, Monis was sentenced to 300 hours of community service last year. In December last year, Monis was accused of helping his current partner, Amirah Droudis, to murder his ex-wife, Noleen Hayson Pal. The woman had been stabbed several times and set alight in a Sydney apartment in April 2013.

Monis’ fate is unknown at this time. We’ll keep you posted on this senseless tragedy as details unfold.

SOURCE: BBC, ABC News  | VIDEO CREDIT: News Inc. 

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