SYDNEY (AP) — Amid a barrage of gunfire, police stormed a cafe in the heart of Sydney early Tuesday to
end a 16-hour hostage siege by an Iranian-born gunman. Police said three people were killed — the gunman
and two of the hostages — and four others were wounded.
Wales state police Commissioner Andrew Scipione.
"They made the call because they believed that at that time, if they didn’t enter, there would have
been many more lives lost," he said.
The gunman was identified as Man Haron Monis, who once was prosecuted for sending offensive letters to
families of Australian troops killed in Afghanistan.
Scipione wouldn’t say whether the two hostages who were killed — a 34-year-old man and a 38-year-old
woman — were caught in crossfire, or shot by the gunman. Among the four wounded was a police officer
shot in the face.
"Until we were involved in this emergency action, we believe that no one had been injured. That
changed. We changed our tactic," he said, adding that there had been a total of 17 hostages taken
in the cafe when the siege began.
The standoff ended when a loud bang was heard from the cafe and five people ran out. Shortly after,
police swooped in, amid heavy gunfire, shouts and flashes. A police bomb disposal robot also was sent
into the building, but no explosives were found.
Police said an investigation is underway because police were involved in an incident in which people
Local media identified the gunman as 50-year-old Monis, and a police official confirmed his identity.
Under department rules, officials do not identify themselves unless speaking at a formal news
Monis has long been on officials’ radar. Last year, he was sentenced to 300 hours of community service
for using the postal service to send what a judge called "grossly offensive" letters to
families of soldiers killed in Afghanistan between 2007 and 2009.
At the time, Monis said his letters were "flowers of advice," adding: "Always, I stand
behind my beliefs."
He was later charged with being an accessory to the murder of his ex-wife. Earlier this year, he was
charged with the sexual assault of a woman in 2002. He has been out on bail on the charges.
"This is a one-off random individual. It’s not a concerted terrorism event or act. It’s a damaged
goods individual who’s done something outrageous," his former lawyer, Manny Conditsis, told
Australian Broadcasting Corp.
"His ideology is just so strong and so powerful that it clouds his vision for common sense and
objectiveness," Conditsis said.
The siege began around 9:45 a.m. in Martin Place, a plaza in Sydney’s financial and shopping district
that is packed with holiday shoppers this time of year. Many of those inside the cafe would have been
taken captive as they stopped in for their morning coffees.
Hundreds of police blanketed the city as streets were closed and offices evacuated. The public was told
to stay away from Martin Place, site of the state premier’s office, the Reserve Bank of Australia, and
the headquarters of two of the nation’s largest banks. The state parliament house is a few blocks away,
and the landmark Sydney Opera House also is nearby.
Throughout the day, several people were seen with their arms in the air and hands pressed against the
window of the cafe, with two people holding up a black flag with the Shahada, or Islamic declaration of
faith, written on it.
The Shahada translates as "There is no god but God and Muhammad is his messenger." It is
considered the first of Islam’s five pillars of faith, and is similar to the Lord’s Prayer in
Christianity. It is pervasive throughout Islamic culture, including the green flag of Saudi Arabia.
Jihadis have used the Shahada in their own black flag.
Channel 10 news said it received a video in which a hostage in the cafe had relayed the gunman’s demands.
The station said police requested they not broadcast it, and Scipione separately asked all media that
might be contacted by the gunman to urge him instead to talk to police.
A number of Australian Muslim groups condemned the hostage-taking in a joint statement and said the
flag’s inscription was a "testimony of faith that has been misappropriated by misguided
In a show of solidarity, many Australians offered on Twitter to accompany people dressed in Muslim
clothes who were afraid of a backlash from the cafe siege. The hashtag #IllRideWithYou was used more
than 90,000 times by late Monday evening.
Seven Network television news staff watched the gunman and hostages for hours from a fourth floor window
of their Sydney offices, opposite the cafe.
The gunman could be seen pacing back and forth past the cafe’s windows. Reporter Chris Reason said the
man carried what appeared to be a pump-action shotgun, was unshaven and wore a white shirt and a black
Some of the hostages were forced up against the windows.
"The gunman seems to be sort of rotating these people through these positions on the windows with
their hands and faces up against the glass," Reason said in a report from the vantage point.
"One woman we’ve counted was there for at least two hours — an extraordinary, agonizing time for
her surely having to stand on her feet for that long."
"When we saw that rush of escapees, we could see from up here in this vantage point the gunman got
extremely agitated as he realized those five had got out. He started screaming orders at the people, the
hostages who remain behind," he added.
Reason later reported that staff brought food from a kitchen at the rear of the cafe and the hostages
As night set in, the lights inside the cafe were switched off. Armed police guarding the area outside
fitted their helmets with green-glowing night goggles.
"This is a very disturbing incident," Prime Minister Tony Abbott said. "It is profoundly
shocking that innocent people should be held hostage by an armed person claiming political
Lindt Australia thanked the public for its support.
"We are deeply concerned over this serious incident and our thoughts and prayers are with the staff
and customers involved and all their friends and families," the company wrote in a Facebook post.
Australia’s government raised the country’s terror warning level in September in response to the domestic
threat posed by supporters of the Islamic State group. Counterterror law enforcement teams later
conducted dozens of raids and made several arrests in Australia’s three largest cities — Melbourne,
Sydney and Brisbane. One man arrested during a series of raids in Sydney was charged with conspiring
with an Islamic State leader in Syria to behead a random person in downtown Sydney.
The Islamic State group, which now holds a third of Syria and Iraq, has threatened Australia in the past.
In September, Islamic State group spokesman Abu Mohammed al-Adnani issued an audio message urging
so-called "lone wolf" attacks abroad, specifically mentioning Australia. Al-Adnani told
Muslims to kill all "disbelievers," whether they be civilians or soldiers.
One terrorism expert said the situation appeared to be that of a "lone wolf" making his own
demands, rather than an attack orchestrated by a foreign jihadist group.
"There haven’t been statements from overseas linking this to extremist groups outside the country —
that is quite positive," said Charles Knight, lecturer in the Department of Policing, Intelligence
and Counter Terrorism at Australia’s Macquarie University. "The individual or individuals involved
didn’t kill early, which is part of the pattern of some recent international attacks. … It seems to be
shifting more into the model of a traditional hostage situation, rather than the sort of brutal attacks
we’ve seen overseas."
Associated Press writers Rod McGuirk in Canberra, Nick Perry in Wellington, New Zealand, Jocelyn Gecker
in Bangkok, Shawn Pogatchnik in Dublin and Maamoun Youssef in Cairo contributed to this report.
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