The suspected jihadist holding up to 15 people hostage in a Sydney cafe is an Iranian sex offender and self-styled sheikh who has sent hate mail to the families of Australian soldiers killed overseas, police confirmed. As the standoff entered its 15th hour, with police and news crews surrounding the shop as frightened hostages looked out through the front window, police identified Man Haron Monis as the gunman holding captives inside Lindt Chocolat Cafe. His identity was known early on to police and media alike, but was only released for the record by police sources as night fell on Sydney with the nation transfixed on the the televised scene. Earlier, several people were seen with their arms in the air and hands pressed against the glass, and two people were seen holding up a black flag associated with Islamic fanaticism. Australian broadcaster Network Ten reported that the gunman, seen wielding a shotgun and a machete, has forced hostages to call him “The Brother” and demanded to speak directly with Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott.
UPDATE: Stunning video shows explosions and gunfire the moment police stormed the Sydney cafe where hostages were being held:
UPDATE 2: ABC and CBS News have each reported the gunman is dead. CNN is reporting another person is dead, three in serious condition. There are unconfirmed reports about a possible third fatality.