Martin Parry, Yahoo! News, December 16, 2014
Australia’s government pledged Tuesday to determine why an Iranian-born Islamist with a history of extremism and violence was able to play out a “sick fantasy” by seizing hostages in a day-long siege.
A giant sea of flowers was laid at a makeshift memorial near the scene in the heart of Sydney’s financial quarter, where Muslim community leaders joined their fellow citizens in mourning the two victims of Monday’s cafe siege.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott conceded that the dead gunman, identified in reports as 50-year-old refugee Man Haron Monis had evaded greater scrutiny despite being accused of serious crimes including sexual offences and abetting in murder.
Emotions were raw as Australia struggled with the news that two hostages were killed when the 16-hour standoff reached a dramatic climax in the early hours of Tuesday, as police commandos stormed the Lindt eatery, leaving Monis also dead.
It was not entirely clear how the hostages died although reports said that cafe manager Tori Johnson, 34, was shot as he tried to wrestle a shotgun out of Monis’s hands. The other victim, mother-of-three Katrina Dawson, 38, was said to have been killed as she tried to shield a pregnant friend.
Six other hostages were wounded, including three women with gunshot wounds, among them a 75-year-old. Two pregnant women were taken to hospital as a precaution.
Abbott said the hostage-taker, who at one point unfurled an Islamic flag at the window of the cafe, “had a long history of violent crime history of violent crime, infatuation with extremism and mental instability”.
“As the siege unfolded . . . he sought to cloak his actions with the symbolism of the ISIL death cult,” he said, referring to the Islamic State group, while praising police for their response “to this brush with terrorism”.
The man was on bail for a series of violent offences, officials said.
New South Wales Attorney-General Brad Hazzard admitted there were serious questions over why he was free after being charged with being an accessory to his ex-wife’s murder and other offences.
The gunman forced hostages to make videos with demands during the standoff, including that Abbott call him and that an Islamic State flag be delivered.
Monis’s former lawyer Manny Conditsis said the public could be assured it was not the work of an organised terrorist group.
“It’s not a concerted terrorism event or act. It’s a damagedgoods individual who’s done something outrageous,” he said of a man who arrived in Australia as a refugee in 1996.