Rob Griffith, Associated Press
A hostage runs to armed tactical response police officers for safety after she escaped from a cafe under siege at Martin Place in the central business district of Sydney, Australia, Monday, Dec. 15, 2014. New South Wales state police would not say what was happening inside the cafe or whether hostages were being held. But television footage shot through the cafe's windows showed several people with their arms in the air.

SYDNEY — A flurry of loud bangs erupted as a swarm of heavily armed police stormed inside a downtown Sydney chocolate cafe where a gunman had been holding an unknown number of people hostage for more than 16 hours.

The police swooped in shortly after five or six hostages were seen running out of the Lindt Chocolat Cafe in downtown Sydney early Tuesday morning. One weeping woman could be seen being carried out of the officers.

The dramatic scene unfolded shortly after the gunman's apparent identity was unveiled by local media.