Officers feared more lives would be lost if they didn't act: Police commissioner
Three died when police stormed a Sydney cafe yesterday - but the death toll could have been much higher if they had failed to act, the local police chief said.
New South Wales Police confirmed the 50-year-old "lone gunman" at the heart of the hostage crisis, Man Haron Manis, was among those killed.
"Another man, aged 34, and a woman, aged 38, were pronounced dead after being taken to hospital," a spokesman added.
"Two women were 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."
The dead were named as barrister and mother Katrina Dawson and cafe manager Tobi Johnson.
The drama started when an armed man entered the cafe at 9.45am local time. He threatened customers and staff and made them hold up Islamic banners and phone bomb threats to media outlets.
Seventeen hostages, including five who escaped in the early hours of the hostage crisis, have all been accounted for, NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione told reporters in Australia's biggest city.
Mr Scipione said gunfire at the Lindt Chocolat Cafe prompted police to move in just after 2am local time, after the crisis had lasted 16 hours.
Asked why the rescuers went into the building, Mr Scipione said: "They made that call because they believed that at that time if they didn't enter, there would have been many more lives lost."
He added: "Events that were unfolding inside the premises led them to the belief that now was the time to actually deploy, and they did.
"I understand there were a number of gunshots that were heard, which caused officers to move towards an emergency action plan."
Mr Scipione said the uninjured hostages would be extensively interviewed as part of the investigation.