From Sun News Network
New South Wales police have confirmed the deaths of three people in what is being called the “Sydney siege.”
A man, 34, and a woman, 38, were pronounced dead at hospital, along with the gunman, Man Haron Monis, also known as Sheikh Haron, a 50-year-old self-styled cleric and refugee from Iran.
His rap sheet includes sexual assault offences and sending hateful letters to the families of Australian soldiers killed overseas.
At 2:20 a.m. local time, police stormed the Lindt Chocolate Café in the central business district of downtown Sydney, ending a hostage crisis that began Monday morning local time – more than 16 hours earlier.
The perpetrator ordered hostages to hang from the window of the café a black flag with Arabic writing on it similar to the flag used by terrorists in Iraq and Syria, signalling a possible link to Islamic terrorists.
The Canadian government said it was closely monitoring the situation as it unfolded.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in a statement Monday that Canada and its allies would continue to “stand together against those who would threaten peace, freedom and democracy.”
“While Canada mourns with the people of Australia, we are also outraged by this barbaric act of depravity on innocent civilians who were merely going about their daily routine.”
In the harbourside city, home to half of Australia’s 500,000 Muslims, police moved on a man shouting anti-Islamic abuse at the scene of the ongoing siege.
The man strode up to a police cordon and shouted: “Someone is going to die here because of Islam! There is no such thing as moderate Islam. Wake up and smell the coffee.”
He was confronted by another man who shouted back: “Muslims are welcome here.” Police urged the first man to leave, to a mix of catcalls and claps of support.
Speaking at a news conference in Canberra, Abbott also said people should go about their business, though with caution: “The whole point of politically motivated violence is to scare people out of being themselves.”“Australia is a peaceful, open and generous society – nothing should ever change that and that’s why I would urge all Australians today to go about their business as usual,” he said.He additionally cautioned against jumping to conclusions about the political motivation of the attackers, though admitted there were “obviously” indications what the motivation could be – apparently referencing the flag in the window.Live television footage showed patrons inside the cafe standing with their hands pressed against the windows.
Local media reported that the nearby Sydney Opera House had been evacuated after a suspicious package had been found. A staff member at the world-famous venue said she was still in the building but declined to comment further and police said they were still trying to confirm the incident.
Grainy images of the suspected assailant showed what appeared to be a middle-aged man wearing a headband and a white shirt.
Australia’s major banks closed branches in Sydney as a result of the hostage taking.
“Due to the police operation in Martin Place Sydney, 12 Westpac branches in Sydney CBD will be closed for the rest of today,” Westpac Banking Corporation said in a tweet. The Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Australia and New Zealand Banking Group posted similar messages.
Australia, a staunch ally of the United States and its escalating action against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, is on high alert for attacks by home-grown militants returning from fighting in the Middle East.
In September, Australian anti-terrorism police said they had thwarted an imminent threat to behead a random member of the public and days later, a teenager in Melbourne was shot dead after attacking two anti-terrorism officers with a knife.
Here in Canada, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird tweeted he’s been in touch with his Australian counterpart, Julie Bishop.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to all Australians during this difficult time,” Baird spokesman Rick Roth said.
Who is Man Haron Monis?
December 15, 2014 13:42
The self-styled cleric at the centre of the Sydney hostage crisis has shown plenty of radical signs before.
Australia’s problem with radical extremists
December 15, 2014 21:04
What sparked the deadly hostage taking in Sydney Australia? Who is the terrorist?
This is something that we will have to get used to OR do something about it real soon! We’ll be seeing more of these ISIS terrorist attacks if we don’t!
“On behalf of all Canadians, Laureen and I offer our deepest condolences to the family and friends of the hostages who perished in Sydney. We also offer prayers that those injured have a speedy recovery.“While Canada mourns with the people of Australia, we are also outraged by this barbaric act of depravity on innocent civilians who were merely going about their daily routine.“Canada and our allies will stand firm and will stand together against those who would threaten peace, freedom and democracy and all of the values we so cherish.”( From the Prime Minister’s Web Site )