When I woke up this morning, I turned on the news and found out three people died at about 2 a.m. in a Martin Place cafe at the heart of Sydney’s Central Business District.
Around 2 a.m. local time (1500 GMT on Monday), at least six people believed to have been held captive managed to flee after gunshots were heard coming from the cafe.
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,” said Andrew Scipione, police commissioner for the state of New South Wales.
Dubbed the “Martin Place Siege”, the hostage drama gripped the world over much of Monday, the 15th December 2014. Just as the rest of the world was getting out of bed the morning of that fateful day, word started spreading amongst workers who had already started the day that a hostage situation had developed at the Lindt cafe in Martin Place, a fashionable pedestrian street closed to motor vehicles in Sydney’s banking district.
News coverage of the evolving drama started appearing in local news sites and TV but beyond the now iconic images of the handful of hostages with their hands up against the glass windows of the cafe, news media would provide no further factual information over the rest of the day as the police had effected a media blackout, sealed off the surrounding area, and evacuated people there within minutes of their physical response at the scene. Only authorised spokespersons mostly from the police spoke to the media. Their aim was mainly to assure the public that the proper authorities were on top of the situation and “the world’s best” hostage negotiators were on the job.
During the siege at the Lindt cafe in Sydney’s central business district, hostages had been forced to display an Islamic flag, igniting fears of a jihadist attack in the heart of the country’s biggest city.
After a couple hours lockdown enforced on buildings immediately surrounding Martin Place, most Sydney workers were allowed to go home. Except for traffic impacted by road closures, the mid- to late-afternoon exodus from Sydney of people non-essential to the resolution of the crisis was orderly and without incident. Trains continued to operate almost to schedule and extra buses were fielded to areas not directly served by rail services. By late afternoon, streets in Sydney’s CBD were no longer bustling.
The lone hostage-taker was killed during the exchange of gunfire that ensued when the police finally mounted an assault on the cafe at about 2 am this morning. The gunman was wannabe Muslim cleric Man Haron Monis, an Iranian-born man welcomed by Australia as a refugee in 1996. Monis had an extensive record of outrageous behaviour that goes way back…
Monis, 50, who has also gone by the names of Sheikh Haron and Mohammad Hassan Manteghi, was no stranger to Australian authorities, achieving notoriety in 2010 after he sent letters to the families of Diggers who had lost their lives in Afghanistan, accusing them of being murderers.
In November last year, Monis was charged with being an accessory before and after the fact to the murder of his ex-wife, who was allegedly stabbed and set alight in her apartment complex. In March, he was charged with sexually and indecently assaulting a young woman in 2002.
Monis’ former lawyer Manny Conditsis describes him as a “damaged goods individual” with an ideology that clouds his common sense. “This is a one-off random individual,” Mr Conditsis told ABC television during the siege.
As a bystander and observer, there is not much further insight to add, only that the police and media acted with professionalism and applied the sort of respect that is pretty much consistent with the character of Australian society overall. All the relevant authorities who worked together to manage the crisis — the police and emergency services, federal and local government leadership both in power and in the Opposition, public transport managers, and the media — exhibited competence and a willingness to work as a community to resolve the emergency in the best way possible.
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