Police end Sydney siege

HEAVILY armed Australian (澳洲) police stormed a Sydney (雪梨) cafe early last Tuesday morning and freed terrified hostages held there at gunpoint. It was a dramatic end to a 16-hour siege in which two captives and the attacker were killed.

Authorities have not publicly identified the gunman, but a police source named him as Man Haron Monis, an Iranian (伊朗) refugee and self-styled cleric known for sending hate mail to the families of Australian troops killed in Afghanistan (阿富汗). He was charged last year with being an accessory to the murder of his ex-wife but had been released on bail.

During the siege, several videos were posted on social media apparently showing hostages inside the Lindt cafe (瑞士蓮朱古力咖啡店) in Sydney’s central business district making demands on behalf of Monis.

The gunman, whom hostages referred to as “brother”, demanded talks with Prime Minister Tony Abbott (艾保德), the delivery of a so-called Islamic State (伊斯蘭國) flag, and that media broadcast that Australia was under attack by the so-called Islamic State.

Abbott told reporters the man was well known to authorities, had a history of extremism and mental instability, and had targeted innocent people.

“These were decent, good people who were going about their ordinary lives ... who got caught up in the sick fantasy of a deeply disturbed individual,” Abbott said of the victims.

Police are investigating whether the two hostages were killed by the gunman or died in the crossfire, Andrew Scipione, police commissioner for the state of New South Wales (新南威爾斯) confirmed to the media during a press conference.

At around 2am local time (5am Hong Kong time), at least six people believed to have been held captive in the Sydney cafe managed to flee after gunshots were heard coming from inside.

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,” Scipione told reporters just before dawn.

Police said a 50-year-old man, believed to be the attacker, was killed. Television pictures showed he appeared to have been armed with a sawn-off shotgun.

(Reuters, 16 December, 2014)