Very heavily armed police have rushed into a cafe in Sydney to end a siege by a gunman who has been identified as an Iranian refugee. He had previously taken dozens of people hostage inside the building.

 Paramedics were seen racing towards the cafe after a series of bangs, flashes and commotion. They had stretchers with them, suggesting people may have been injured in the scuffle. Several people have said to be injured, but the fate of the gunman himself is not yet known.

Sydney itself has been brought to a standstill since the gunman took hostages earlier today (Monday). 

 Earlier today hostages were forced to hold up black Islamic banners at the window.

The prime minister has said it is "profoundly shocking" that people were being held hostage by a gunman claiming political intent.

Loud bangs were heard and hostages were seen running to safety with their hands raised. Following this there was prolonged, heavy gunfire. It is suggested that the gunman has been killed, but this has not been confirmed as yet. 

The gunman was 49 year old Man Haron Monis who received political asylum in Australia in 1996, and was currently on bial facing a number of charges. He has been described as a solitary man. It is believed he was working alone. 

The man has also been known for previously sending hate mail to the families of Australian soldiers who died in combat fighting for their country.

He was also being held on bail after a series of sexual assaults and offences.

He was also being held accountable for being an accessory to the murder of his ex-wife, who was stabbed and set alight in a block of flats in Sydney last year.

He has a website online which shows graphic images of children which he says were killed by Australian and American airstrikes.

He also showcases footage and news clippings of his court appearances, and writes extended aggressive letters to the Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott. 

Previously police had been in contact with the man, but his demands remained unclear, and as such they were forced to approach the situation with force.