At least five more hostages have fled the scene of the siege at the cafe in Sydney, Australia.
An unknown number of hostages are still being held inside as the crisis dragged into its second day and 16th hour.
The gunman who took a number of people hostage inside the city-centre cafe is believed to be a self-styled Muslim cleric out on bail over a string of violent charges.
Local media reports the gunman is Iranian-born Man Haron Monis.
A police official said “you wouldn’t be wrong” in identifying the 50-year-old as the gunman.
A message apparently sent by Monis in October to members of the Muslim community and published on his personal website voiced support for non-violent activism.
“Islam is the religion of peace and a Muslim should be a peace activist,” Monis wrote in a letter he signed “Sheikh Haron”.
“Islam is against oppression and any unfair violence. Islam is against terrorism. As I have repeatedly said earlier: ’this pen is my gun and these words are my bullets, I fight by these weapons against oppression to promote peace’.”
The website was this afternoon suspended.
Chris Reason, a senior journalist at Seven News, which has its main Sydney newsroom across the plaza from the Lindt Chocolat Cafe, said he believed he could see the man inside carrying a pump-action shotgun.
Five people have escaped from the cafe since the hostage crisis began during morning rush hour.
Two people inside the cafe held up a flag with an Islamic declaration of faith.
The first three people ran out of the cafe in Martin Place six hours into the hostage crisis, and two women sprinted from a fire exit into the arms of waiting police shortly afterwards.
Both women were wearing aprons with the Lindt chocolate logo, indicating they were cafe employees.
Police have refused to say how many hostages remain inside the cafe, what they believe the gunman’s motives might be, or whether the hostages who fled the cafe escaped or were released.