Sydney siege over
SYDNEY (AP) – A swarm of heavily armed police stormed a cafe in the heart of Sydney early Tuesday, ending a siege by an Iranian-born gunman who had held an unknown number of hostages for more than 16 hours.
A police spokesman confirmed “the operation is over”, but would not release any other details about the fate of the gunman.
A female hostage was shot in the leg, a hospital official said, and earlier at least two people were wheeled out of the cafe on stretchers. A weeping woman was helped out by police.
The standoff ended when a loud bang was heard from the Lindt Chocolat Cafe and five people ran out. Then police swooped into the building, and there was a flurry of loud bangs.
The gunman was identified by local media as Man Haron Monis, who is facing charges including sexual assault and accessory to murder in separate cases. A police official said “you wouldn’t be wrong” in identifying the 50-year-old Monis as the gunman. Under department rules, officials do not identify themselves unless speaking at a formal news conference.
Monis has long been on officials’ radar. Last year, he was sentenced to 300 hours of community service for writing offensive letters to families of soldiers killed in Afghanistan. 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 wounded hostage, a woman in her 40s, was in serious but stable condition at Royal North Shore Hospital, spokeswoman Jenny Dennis said. She was admitted shortly after police stormed the cafe.
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.