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Australia Mourns the Heroes and Victims of the Sydney Siege

Tributes have poured in for the two hostages who were killed in the chaotic exchange of gunfire that ended a 16-hour siege at a Sydney café.
Photo by Nick Perry/AP

The chaotic exchange of gunfire that ended a 16-hour siege at a Sydney café yesterday left three people dead, including gunman Man Haron Monis and two of his hostages.

Police identified the two hostages as 34-year-old café manager Tori Johnson and 38-year-old barrister Katrina Dawson, a mother of two.

The exchange of gunfire reportedly began after Johnson attempted to grab the gun from Monis. Peter Manettas, one of Johnson's former colleagues, told The Australian newspaper that the café manager was "a selfless leader."

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"He put everyone else first," Manettas said. "Anyone who has that inside him, it does not surprise me if he acted in such a way."

Johnson's family released a statement through radio station 2GB and television journalist Ben Fordham, who posted their message on Twitter.

I've been asked to release this statement from the parents of Sydney siege hero Tori JohnsonRead: — BenFordham (@BenFordham)December 16, 2014

Sydney siege ends with three dead after police storm café. Read more here.

"We are so proud of our beautiful boy Tori, gone from this Earth but forever in our memories as the most amazing life partner, son and brother we could ever wish for," the statement said. "We'd like to thank not only our friends and loved ones for their support, but the people of Sydney, Australia and those around the world for reaching out with their thoughts and prayers."

Tributes also poured in for Dawson. She volunteered at Redfern Legal Service, a group that provides legal assistance in Redfern, an underprivileged Sydney suburb that is home to a large and proud Aboriginal community.

We mourn the loss of Katrina Dawson today, who contributed to the community in many ways including volunteering at RLC for many years. 1/2

— Redfern Legal Centre (@RLC_CEO)December 16, 2014

She's remembered as one of our best volunteers who was well liked by all. Our thoughts are with her family, friends and colleagues today 2/2

— Redfern Legal Centre (@RLC_CEO)December 16, 2014

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Channel Seven host Natalie Barr broke down in tears when she found out live on the air that Dawson was one of the victims. Barr had worked with Dawson's brother.

A police tactical operations unit entered the café at around 2:00am local time after gunfire was heard inside.

Sydney siege gunman was on bail for dozens of sex assault charges and accessory to murder. Read more here.

New South Wales State Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione said police were forced to move in "because they believed that at that time if they didn't enter, there would have been many more lives lost."

Scipione confirmed that an officer was shot in the face during the exchange of gunfire that ended the siege.

"We have a male police officer who has been injured as a result of gunshot wounds to the face," Scipione said at a morning press conference. "I have talked to that officer. He is in good condition."

Scipione said the hostages were "very brave people who in many cases were just buying a cup of coffee and they got caught up in this dreadful affair."

"We should reflect on their courage, the courage that they displayed during the many hours in that room," he said. "They had to make decisions, hard decisions, and our heart goes out to them.'"

Scipione later placed a wreath in Martin Place, the site of the siege.

Police Comnr Scipione laying flowers at Martin Place: 'I'm close to tears myself' — Sean R-Dunlop (@seanrubinsztein)December 15, 2014

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At a seperate news conference after the shootout, deputy New South Wales police commissioner Catherine Burn refused to comment on whether the hostages were killed by the gunman or by crossfire from the tactical operations unit that entered the café.

"We have to wait until the coroner gives us some information about that," Burn told reporters. "There are clearly processes underway. I do want to be a little sensitive to the families at the moment about what those processes might be. We need to have formal identification and a formal feedback before we can make any assessment."

Burn said a total of six people were injured, including three women who received treatment for gunshot wounds. She said the women were in stable condition.

Police told ABC News that two hostages were pregnant and in a stable condition in hospital, and three other hostages that suffered gunshot wounds remained stable.

Police have confirmed that two of the hostages, a 30yr old woman and a 35yr old were pregnant. Both are stable, in hospital. — Lucy Carter (@lucethoughts)December 16, 2014

Others injured: 75 year-old female w gunshot, 52 year-old female w gunshot, 43 year old female w gunshot (all stable)

— Lucy Carter (@lucethoughts)December 16, 2014

In Australia's capital, Canberra, the headquarters of the Australian Government's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade was evacuated Tuesday afternoon after reports of a suspicious package found in the canteen. The Federal Police later revealed there was no threat.

BREAKING: Package found at DFAT deemed non-suspicious. More info to come — ACT Policing (@ACTPolicing)December 16, 2014

Follow Scott Mitchell on Twitter: @s_mitchell