Today, Australia served as a terrifying place for more than 40 individuals. A standoff between a man identified as an Iranian refugee named, Man Haron Monis and Commando police officers. Monis had forced hostages to hold up Islamic flags in the Lindt Chocolat Cafe in Sydney’s Martin Place. Heavily armed paramilitary officers, snipers and a swat team surrounded the shop and during the standoff, at least five of the hostages were able to escape.

More details after the jump.

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Police stormed in with guns blazing. Two women suffered non-threatening injuries as well as some police who were hit in the face with gun pellets. Others were injured, however three people died, including the gunman. “This was an isolated incident,” New South Wales state police Commissioner Andrew Scipione calls the matter. “This should never destroy or change the way of our life.”

The NSW, Australian police organization released the following statement surrounding the incident.

A critical incident investigation has been launched after three people died and four others were injured during a police operation in Sydney’s CBD this morning.

About 2.10am (Tuesday 16 December), a confrontation occurred between police and a man who had taken a number of people hostage inside a café on Martin Place.

Shots were fired during the confrontation.

As a result, the 50-year-old man was pronounced dead after being taken to hospital.

Another man, aged 34, and a woman, aged 38, were pronounced dead after being taken to hospital.

Two women have been taken to hospital with non-life threatening injuries, while a male police officer suffered a non-life threatening wound to his face from gunshot pellets and was taken to hospital.

Another woman has been taken to hospital with a gunshot wound to her shoulder.

A 35-year-old woman was taken to hospital as a precaution.

The police operation has concluded and the investigations into entire incident will be overseen by the Professional Standards Command.

All information will be provided to the Coroner who will determine the cause of and make any findings about the events leading to the deaths.

No further details are available at this time; however, police are appealing for witnesses to come forward. Anyone who can assist police should contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

A timeline of the incident is as follows:

09:45 Monday local time (22:45 GMT Sunday): Police are called out to the Lindt Chocolat Cafe in Sydney’s Martin Place, a busy plaza in the heart of the city. Suggestions an armed robbery is under way are soon discounted

10:09: Australian TV stations broadcast footage of hostages holding a black Islamic banner up to the window. The gunman can also be seen, wearing a bandana

12:30: As police flood the area, Prime Minister Tony Abbott goes on national TV to promise a thorough police response to the “deeply concerning incident”

16:00-17:00: Three men, then two women, sprint to safety from the cafe’s fire exit

18:30: Police confirm negotiations are under way with the gunman

02:20 Tuesday (15:20 GMT Monday): Several more hostages escape and commandos storm the cafe

02:48: Police officially confirm end of siege. They later report the deaths of three people, including the gunman

Check out the gallery for more from the scene.