Sydney hostage drama ends, 2 Indians safe

Sydney: Two Indians who were among the hostages in a popular Sydney cafe are safe, said India’s Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) on Monday.

The two Indian nationals have been identified as Vishwakant Ankireddy and Pushpendu Ghosh, the ministry added.

Media reports said two were killed and three others seriously injured in the raid but police said they cannot confirm the casualties.

Heavily-armed police stormed the cafe where a gunman of Iranian-origin had been holding about 15 people ending an over 16-hour hostage drama.

“Sydney siege is over,” New South Wales police tweeted minutes after loud bangs were heard as police stormed the Lindt Chocolate Cafe in downtown Sydney.

A police spokesman confirmed “the operation is over” but did not release further details.

Five to six hostages were seen running out of the eatery. One weeping woman could be seen being carried out by the officers and at least two other people were wheeled out on stretchers.

The siege began after 9 AM local time and the gunman was identified by local media as Haron Monis, who was granted political asylum in Australia.

The 50-year-old was described by his former lawyer as an isolated figure, who was acting alone.

The gunman, who arrived in Australia as a refugee in 1996, achieved notoriety after he sent letters to the families of Australian soldiers who lost their lives in Afghanistan, accusing them of being murderers.

In November last year, he was charged with being an accessory before and after the murder of his ex-wife, who was allegedly stabbed and set alight in her apartment complex. In March, he was charged with sexually and indecently assaulting a young woman in 2002.