Police storm Sydney cafe to end hostage standoff - Macleans.ca

Police storm Sydney cafe to end hostage standoff

Police spokesman confirms ‘the operation is over,’ though releases no other details.

Police stand at the ready close to a cafe under siege in Martin Place in the central business district of Sydney, Australia, Monday, Dec. 15, 2014. (AP Photo)

Police stand at the ready close to a cafe under siege in Martin Place in the central business district of Sydney, Australia, Monday, Dec. 15, 2014. (AP Photo)

SYDNEY, Australia — A swarm of heavily armed police stormed a cafe in the heart of downtown Sydney early Tuesday, ending a siege where a gunman had been holding an unknown number of people hostage for more than 16 hours.

A police spokesman confirmed “the operation is over,” but would not release any further details about the fate of the gunman or any of those who were inside.

After a flurry of loud bangs, police swooped into the Lindt Chocolat Cafe shortly after five or six hostages were seen running from the building.

After the police moved in, one weeping woman was helped out by the officers and at least two other people were wheeled out on stretchers.

The drama unfolded shortly after the gunman was identified by local media as Iranian-born 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 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.

Throughout the day, several people were seen with their arms in the air and hands pressed against the window of the cafe, and 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 New South Wales state police Commissioner Andrew 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 individuals.”

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 cap.

Earlier Monday, network staff counted about 15 different faces among hostages 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 were fed.

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.

St. Vincent’s hospital spokesman David Faktor said a male hostage was in satisfactory condition in the hospital’s emergency department. He was the only one of the freed hostages to be taken to a hospital, and Scipione said he was being treated for a pre-existing condition.

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.

“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 motivation.”

Lindt Australia posted a message on its Facebook page thanking 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.

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.”

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Police storm Sydney cafe to end hostage standoff

  1. 8 people held hostage in a chocolate shop in Sydney……the world trembles.


    • Maybe not the world, Emily, but certainly the hostages inside the cafe are more concerned about their fate than are you.

      Nice to see your compassion in action.

  2. Thanks to open immigration, Islamist groups will soon have enough supporters to wreck havoc in Canada and every other Western nation. Once they have critical mass within our borders, we won’t just have our embassies to worry about, they’ll be attacking our cities from within and it will all be thanks to our idiotic and unnecessary policy of mass immigration. Why not e-mail your MP while you’re on-line anyway?

    • Why not use YOUR time online to read up on Canadian Muslims?

      You’ll find they were here at Confederation….and there are more than a million of them….more Muslims than Jews in fact.

      You are quite safe.

      • Emily,

        while you are recommending online research to others’…perhaps you should do some of your own.

        Compare what the accomplishments of Canadian Jews are compared to Canadian Muslim’s.

        Jews have made huge contributions that benefit everyone, whereas the Muslim’s you admire seem to spend an inordinate amount of time killing their wives and daughters, commiting terrorist acts, and raising funds for other people to commit terrorist acts.

        Maybe you are quite safe, hiding inside the subsidized mental institution that you call home, but for folks who just want a coffee in the morning; it is apparently not as secure as you believe.

        • James, the guy in the cafe is an armed crazy.

          You’re an unarmed crazy.

          • Emily,
            The crazy Muslim guy…is now dead. So are two of the hostages.

            I’m pretty sure that the two dead innocent folks won’t weigh on your conscience, however, I’m awaiting your comment blaming the entire terrorist act as being the fault of Stephen harper, or law-abiding gun owners.

            (or..for some strange reason…plumbers)

        • Christian terrorists are as crazy as Muslim terrorists as Jewish/Buddhist/Hindu etc terrorists.

          But, wow….plumbers? Yer getting nuttier all the time, James. LOL

          • Emily,

            You show how cluless you are with every post. Of all the terrorist attacks in the world today, please tell us how many are united behind Christianity, or Buddhism? I would suspect you are being deliberatly obtuse, but after reading many of your posts over time…..I must conclude that you are indeed as big of an idiot as most people here think you are. Each post convinces me more.

            as for the “plumbers” you have a short memory. There was a period where you spent an inordinate amount of time castigating them repeatedly, and putting them down as being of a lower class.

        • James there is no such thing as ‘race’….it’s a social construct. All human beings are the same species.

          Religion is cultural….and all religions have terrorists.

          Look it up.

          Do stop the crap about all you guys meeting in a club house to discuss me. LOL You don’t know anyone on here.

          And plumbers were discussed in several education posts over a specific quote…..you weren’t around then, so it’s nothing to do with you.

          • Emily,

            I never mentioned race at all…….that seems to be your preoccupation. I was referring to a religion. There are black jews, white jews, chinese jews…and Sammy Davis Junior Jews. Same applies to Muslim’s.

            As for the rest of your post……hmmm..not sure where you get that? I don’t recall discussing any meetings in a club to discuss you. You may wish we cared about you enough to do that…but I assure you, that is not the case.

            And again you talk about all religions having fanatics…..and again, you miss the obvious.

            Please tell us what religion has been making the majority news for the last 30 years when it comes to violence, barbarity, and terrorism?

            Just go take your blue, red, and tan pills and come back and try again later.

  3. Sensational worldwide headlines over one lonely and crazy person claiming to be an Islamist extremist supporter taking hostages in one Sydney, Australia, cafe — one guy who has taken hostages but killed nobody and who Aussie cops could have killed with a single sniper shot but haven’t been allowed to do so because it serves Western political purposes to keep the anti-Islam story going as long as the easily manipulated international media including this news outfit plays along.

    • Rudy,

      Instead of focussing on the media using this story to make Muslim’s look bad…..why not focus on the MUSLIM GUY WITH THE GUN TAKING HOSTAGES; and how his actions make muslim’s look bad.

      Methinks you are missing the point.

  4. And to think of all the criticism Australia came under when they tried to crack down on the Muslim’s and other extremists who tried to get into the country illegally.

    Bet you a buck this nut-case is another muslim import.

    Aussies should have cracked down 20 years earlier.