Armed Australian police carried out special operation aimed to put end to the terrible siege in a Sydney cafe early on Tuesday morning and freed hostages held there at gunpoint. Two captives and the attacker were killed.
Local authorities refused to reveal the name of the gunman, but a source familiar with the case identified him as Man Haron Monis, an Iranian refugee and self-styled sheikh known for sending hate mail to the families of Australian troops killed in Afghanistan.
The suspect was reportedly charged last year with being an accessory to the murder of his ex-wife but lated he had been free on bail.
During the terrifuing 16-hour-long siege, several videos were posted on social media showing hostages inside the Lindt cafe making demands on behalf of the gunman.
The man, whom hostages referred to as “brother”, demanded to talk to Prime Minister Tony Abbott, the delivery of an Islamic State flag, and that media broadcast that Australia was under attack by Islamic State.
Prime Minister announced to reporters that the gunman was well known to authorities, had a history of extremism and mental instability, and had targeted innocent people.
Abbott and security officials questioned why he was not in custody or being monitored more closely.”That’s precisely the kind of question that members of the public are entitled to ask … how can someone who has had such a long and chequered history not be on the appropriate watch lists and be entirely at large in the community,” Abbott said.
“These were decent, good people who were going about their ordinary lives … who got caught up in the sick fantasy of a deeply disturbed individual,” Abbott said of the victims.
Abbott later laid a bouquet of white flowers at the memorial in Martin Place and wrote a message and waved at the crowd but did not address them.
“These events do demonstrate that even a country as free, as open and as generous as ours is vulnerable to acts of politically motivated violence but they also demonstrate that… we are ready to respond,” he told reporters.
Meanwhile, Sidney police are investigating whether the two hostages were killed by the suspect or died in the crossfire, said Andrew Scipione, police commissioner for the state of New South Wales.
“Around 2 a.m. local time (1500 GMT on Monday), at least six people believed to have been held captive in the Sydney cafe managed to flee after gunshots were heard coming from inside,” Reuters writes.
Police then moved in, with heavy gunfire and blasts from stun grenades echoing from the building.
“They made the call because they believed at that time if they didn’t enter there would have been many more lives lost,” Scipione told reporters just before dawn.
Swiss chocolate-maker Lindt, the owner of the cafe, said in a statement: “We are devastated by the loss of their lives and that several others were wounded and had to experience such trauma.”