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Brazilian was among hostages being held at Sydney café; three died in rescue operation

Police officers at the ready close to a cafe under siege in Sydney, Australia, Monday, Dec. 15, 2014.

Police officers at the ready close to a cafe under siege in Sydney, Australia, Monday, Dec. 15, 2014.  (ap)

A Brazilian woman may have been among the hostages being held at a Sydney café since Monday morning, according to a man who spoke with Globonews in Brasilia. The man, identified only by his first name, Jorge, said he has been informed his sister Marcia Mikhael was one of the dozen or so people still hostage at the Lindt Chocolat Café, in downtown Sydney.

"We were informed that she is in the café and sent messages about what is happening," he told the TV channel.

"There are messages in social media that are supposedly hers, but it is very difficult to determine if it’s she who is sending them," said Jorge, whose sister resides in Australia since the late 90s.

A Sydney police spokesperson has confirmed that there were three fatalities during the rescue operation, including the gunman.

Heavily armed police stormed the cafe in the heart of Sydney early Tuesday, ending a siege by an Iranian-born gunman who had held an unknown number of hostages for more than 16 hours.

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Police swooped into the Lindt Chocolat Cafe shortly after five or six hostages were seen running out of the building.

After the police moved in, one weeping woman was helped out by the officers and at least two other people were wheeled out on stretchers.

The gunman is believed to be a self-styled Muslim cleric out on bail on a string of violent charges.

Local media reported that the gunman is Iranian-born Man Haron Monis. A police official said "you wouldn't be wrong" in identifying the 50-year-old Monis as the gunman. Under department rules, officials do not identify themselves unless speaking at a formal news conference.

With reporting by the Associated Press.

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