Sydney siege live: Hostages removed on stretchers as police storm building to end Lindt cafe siege

Video: Follow the latest developments from the outside of the cafe in Sydney as the hostage crisis continues

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Several people were seen being removed from Sydney's Lindt Café on stretchers as police officers stormed the building and ended the siege after over 17 hours.

Gunshots and explosions were heard as cameras caught hostages fleeing in terror as armed officers entered the café to disarm the gunmen who had held the hostages in the Australian capital.

Police could confirm that the siege was now over.

According to reports, 11 hostages had been successfully rescued by police during the raid.

Warning: footage may be upsetting for some viewers  

Hundreds of police surrounded the cafe in Martin Place when the siege began at 9.45am local time. The gunman entered the building, pulling a gun from a blue bag, and he reportedly told police that he had planted four bombs around the city.

Earlier, dramatic footage showed five people - three men and two women - managing to flee the scene.

Readers can watch a live feed from outside the cafe below.

It is understood the five hostages who fled the cafe, some of whom were wearing brown aprons with the Lindt logo on them, escaped rather than being released by the gunman.

As the siege unfolded, two people inside the cafe were seen holding up a flag with an Islamic declaration of faith that has often been used by extremists, fuelling speculation that it was the work of an Islamic extremist.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said it was unclear if the siege was politically motivated.