In a tape broadcast by a radio station, David Koresh had seemed to signal the end of a stand-off in which he and 70 supporters - including some Britons - were holed up for more than 48 hours.
Late last night some 300 police and federal agents, supported by armoured vehicles and a tank, were still surrounding the cult's compound, waiting for Mr Koresh to emerge - a move he had pledged to make if the tape, which included a 58-minute religious sermon, were to be broadcast.
The sect, the Branch Davidians, have released two British children among a total of 16 children and two women. The Foreign Office believes other Britons are inside and officials have 16 names, given by people fearing relatives are there.
The Houston Chronicle said the children confirmed that seven cult members had died in shooting since the siege began. As many as 15 might still be lying dead inside the compound, it said.
The siege began on Sunday when US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents arrived to raid the cult because they believed it had an arsenal of weapons and was conducting paramilitary exercises. But it appeared members were tipped-off, and in a 45-minute gunfight four federal agents were killed and 17 people hurt.
The Houston Chronicle said yesterday that seven cult members had died in the shoot-out, but the toll might be 15. Unconfirmed reports said a two-year-old girl - a daughter of Mr Koresh - died.
During his radio broadcast Mr Koresh appeared unrepentant. 'I am involved in a very serious thing right now and I'm sure a lot of you realise I should be scared and concerned,' he said. 'But I am really concerned about the lives of my brothers here, and the lives of all the people around the world.'
Vincent Noberega, from north London, said his wife Teresa and daughter Natalie were in the compound. He saw seven other Britons there four months ago.
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