Update, 2:15 p.m.: Two of Monis' hostages are dead, police say.
Update, 1:20 p.m.: Hostage-taker Man Haron Monis is dead.
Update, 12:05 p.m.: Police stormed the cafe in Sydney where a self-declared Muslim cleric was holding hostages, ending a standoff that lasted more than 16 hours. It's not yet clear whether any individuals were injured or killed, though several were put on stretchers and taken away in ambulances. The police attack on the cafe took place at around 2:30 a.m. local time.
Here's video of hostages leaving the cafe:
Original post, 10:03 a.m.: A self-declared cleric with an apparently extensive criminal past is holding more than a dozen hostages and displaying banners printed with Islamic slogans at a Sydney, Australia, cafe. The alleged hostage-taker, Man Haron Monis, was convicted of sending abusive letters to the families of dead Australian soldiers, is suspected of conspiring to murder his ex-wife, and has been charged with sexual assault for allegedly abusing individuals he met after advertising himself as a spiritual healer.
One of Monis' former lawyers says he is likely acting alone: "His ideology is just so strong and so powerful that it clouds his vision for common sense and objectiveness," the lawyer said. "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."
At least five hostages have left the cafe; it's not clear whether they were released or escaped. No injuries have been reported.