Sydney | Heavily armed police officers ended a hostage siege in Sydney early Tuesday, storming a downtown cafe where an armed man had held employees and customers for more than 17 hours.
The captor and two hostages died during the confrontation and four other people were wounded. Iranian-born ISIS sympathiser Man Haron Monis began to doze off in the early hours of today when the hostages decided to escape together and on realising this he opened fire, according to a media report.
Two hostages who have been killed in the 17-hour-long hostage drama were identified as the manager of the Lindt Chocolate cafe and a lawyer. The 38-year-old lawyer, Katrina Dawson, was a mother of three young children who became the victim of the siege. She was a barrister at Selbourne Chambers and wasmarried to Paul Smith, a partner at Mallesons.
Lindt Chocolate cafe’s 34-year-old manager, Tori Johnson, was also killed in the siege operations yesterday. He had worked at the cafe since October 2012 and at a string of other restaurants and hospitality companies around Sydney.
Live television images of the scene showed intense flashes of gunfire and loud concussions from stun grenades as police officers raced into the building at about 2:10 a.m. local time with weapons drawn, followed later by medics with stretchers.
Andrew Scipione, the New South Wales police commissioner, said the police moved quickly to enter the cafe after gunshots were heard inside. “They made the call because they believed that at that time, that if they didn’t enter, there would have been many more lives lost,” he said. Before the gunshots were heard, he said, the police believed that no one in the cafe had been injured.
Just before the police entered the building, at least six hostages were seen running from the cafe. The police said later that there had been 17 hostages in all.
The police identified the hostage taker as “a 50-year-old man” but did not give his name. Earlier, the police confirmed reports that the hostage-taker was Man Haron Monis, an Iranian-born man around 50 with a criminal record who called himself Sheikh Haron.
Mr. Monis’s former lawyer, Manny Conditsis, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in a televised interview before the siege ended that he believed Mr. Monis was acting alone.
The armed man took control of the Lindt Chocolate Cafe on Martin Place in central Sydney around 9:45 a.m. Monday, trapping employees and customers inside. He had a black flag with white Arabic script, similar to those used by Islamic militants on other continents, which was later displayed in a cafe window.
During the day Monday, five people fled the cafe, including two employees, but it was not clear whether the assailant had allowed them to leave or they had escaped..
Mr. Monis was known to the police. According to The Sydney Morning Herald, he was free on bail in two separate criminal cases. He was charged in November 2013 with being an accessory before and after the fact in the murder of his ex-wife, Noleen Hayson Pal, and in April 2014, he was charged with the indecent and sexual assault of a woman in western Sydney in 2002. Forty more counts of indecent or sexual assault relating to six other women were later added in that case.
Mr. Monis pleaded guilty in 2013 to 12 charges related to the sending of poison-pen letters to the families of Australian servicemen who were killed overseas, local media reports said. He was reportedly sentenced to probation and community service.
The police have said that Mr. Monis presented himself as a spiritual healer and conducted business for a time on Station Street in Wentworthville, a western suburb of Sydney.
A website apparently associated with Mr. Monis included condemnation of the United States and Australia for their military actions against Islamic militants in Iraq and Afghanistan. News reports said the site also contained a posting saying Mr. Monis had recently converted from Shia to Sunni Islam, and SITE, an organization that monitors Islamic extremist groups, said he posted a pledge of allegiance to the “Caliph of the Muslims.” The posting appeared to refer to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and the Islamic State militant group, SITE said, though the posting did not mention them by name.
Mr. Monis apparently emigrated to Australia from Iran around 1996, and was previously known as Manteghi Boroujerdi or Mohammad Hassan Manteghi. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation said he was granted political asylum. In a broadcast interview in 2001, he claimed to have worked for the Iranian intelligence ministry and to have fled the country in fear for his life, leaving behind a wife and family.
In September, a spokesman for the Islamic State, Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, issued a statement calling on Muslims in Australia to carry out attacks of their own. Facing an increase in threats to the country, Tony Abbott, the Australian prime minister, raised the country’s alert level that month and tightened restrictions on news reporting concerning national security matters.
In a show of solidarity, thousands of Australians offered in social media messages to accompany people who dress in traditional Muslim clothing and are concerned about a backlash from the siege. The hashtag #IllRideWithYou was used more than 250,000 times on Twitter.
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