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Three Dead in Sydney Lindt Café Hostage Crisis

Three Dead in Sydney Lindt Café Hostage Crisis

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An armed gunman took more than a dozen people hostage in a Sydney cafe yesterday.

An armed gunman took some 17 people hostage at lunchtime on Monday at a Lindt Chocolate Cafe in Sydney, Australia.

According to the BBC, police in Sydney sealed off a section of that city’s central business district last night when a gunman terrorized the Lindt Chocolate Café, refusing to allow employees or customers to leave. The hostages were later photographed holding up a black banner with Arabic writing in the window, reportedly forced to do so by 49-year-old Man Haron Monis, the suspected gunman. Monis was reportedly out on bail for an array of criminal charges including more than 40 sexual and indecent assault charges and being an accessory to the murder of his former wife. He styled himself an Islamic "sheikh."-

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the siege ended early Tuesday morning after armed police stormed the café with stun grenades. Earlier in the day, some of the hostages had managed to escape. Later reports verified that Monis and two of the hostages had been slain during the attack.


2014 Sydney hostage crisis

The 2014 Sydney hostage crisis, also known as the Sydney siege, occurred on 15-16 December 2014 when a lone gunman, Man Haron Monis, held hostage ten customers and eight employees of a Lindt chocolate café located at Stadium Road in Sydney, Australia. Police treated the event as a terrorist attack at the time but Monis motives were subsequently defeated.

The Sydney siege led to a 16-hour standoff, after which a gunshot was heard from inside and police officers from the Tactical Operations Unit stormed the café. Hostage Tori Johnson was killed by Monis and hostage Katrina Dawson was killed by a police bullet ricochet in the subsequent raid. Monis was also killed. Three other hostages and a police officer were injured by police gunfire during the raid.

Police have been criticised over their handling of the siege for not taking proactive action earlier, for the deaths of hostages at the end of the siege, and for the lack of negotiation during the siege. Hostage Marcia Mikhael called radio station 2GB during the siege and said “They have not negotiated, they’ve done nothing. They have left us here to die.”

Early on, hostages were seen holding the Islamic black flag, and mistook it as ISIS. In the aftermath of the siege, Muslim groups issued a joint statement in which they have condemned the incident, and memorial services were held in the city at the nearby St Mary's Cathedral and St James' Church. Condolence books were set up in other Lindt cafés and the community turned Martin Place into a "field of flowers". The Martin Place Lindt café was severely damaged during the police raid, closed afterwards and renovated for reopening in March 2015.


At the scene: Wendy Frew, BBC News, Sydney

The atmosphere in Martin Place itself was surreal. Office workers who had been evacuated from their buildings, construction workers from building sites and tourists packed the pedestrian plaza one block away from the Lindt coffee shop.

Rosemary D'Urso Healion had just come out of the Martin Place subway station and was walking to her office when she saw that it was blocked by police. Then she saw the police close down the subway station.

"I work in that building [where the siege is taking place] and I was just about to go in," she told the BBC, adding that she had been in contact with some of her colleagues who were in the building but not being held hostage.

She remained at Martin Place anxiously watching a police operation that appeared to be aimed at getting some of her colleagues out via a ladder erected on a window ledge on the first floor.


Sydney hostage siege over 3 dead, including gunman

A woman cries after laying a flower at a makeshift memorial in Sydney, Australia Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2014 near where three people died in a siege. An Iranian-born gunman took 17 people hostage at a central city cafe Monday before police stormed the cafe early Tuesday. The gunman and two hostages were killed. (AP Photo/Nick Perry)

Women offer flowers at a makeshift memorial in Sydney, Australia Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2014 near where three people died in a siege. An Iranian-born gunman took 17 people hostage at a central city cafe Monday before police stormed the cafe early Tuesday. The gunman and two hostages were killed. (AP Photo/Nick Perry)

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and his wife Margie pay their respect to the victims of the siege in Martin Place in Sydney central business district, Australia. Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2014. Abbott has laid flowers at a makeshift memorial in Sydney for the victims of a central city cafe siege which left three people dead. (Photo: Steve Christo)

Armed police officers point as they stand at the ready close to a cafe under siege at Martin Place in Sydney, Australia, Monday, Dec. 15, 2014. A gunman took an unknown number of people hostage inside a downtown Sydney chocolate shop and cafe at the height of Monday morning rush hour, with two people inside the cafe seen holding up a flag believed to contain an Islamic declaration of faith. (AP Photo/Rob Griffith)

Emergency personnel wheel a blood soaked stretcher to an ambulance during a cafe siege in the central business district of Sydney , Australia, Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2014. A swarm of heavily armed police stormed the 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 his remaining captives. 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. (AP Photo/Rob Griffith)

UPDATES with details of deaths graphic locates the Lindt Cafe where a lone gunman held hostage in downtown Sydney for more than 16 hours 2c x 4 1/4 inches 96.3 mm x 107 mm

SYDNEY — Amid a barrage of gunfire, police stormed a cafe in the heart of Sydney early Tuesday to end a 16-hour hostage siege by an Iranian-born gunman. Police said three people were killed — the gunman and two of the hostages — and four others were wounded.

Police raided the Lindt Chocolat Cafe after they heard a number of gunshots from inside, said New South Wales state police Commissioner Andrew Scipione.

“They made the call because they believed that at that time, if they didn’t enter, there would have been many more lives lost,” he said.

The gunman was identified as Man Haron Monis, who once was prosecuted for sending offensive letters to families of Australian troops killed in Afghanistan.

Scipione wouldn’t say whether the two hostages who were killed — a 34-year-old man and a 38-year-old woman — were caught in crossfire, or shot by the gunman. Among the four wounded was a police officer shot in the face.

“Until we were involved in this emergency action, we believe that no one had been injured. That changed. We changed our tactic,” he said, adding that there had been a total of 17 hostages taken in the cafe when the siege began.

The standoff ended when a loud bang was heard from the cafe and five people ran out. Shortly after, police swooped in, amid heavy gunfire, shouts and flashes. A police bomb disposal robot also was sent into the building, but no explosives were found.

Police said an investigation is underway because police were involved in an incident in which people died.

Local media identified the gunman as 50-year-old Monis, and a police official confirmed his identity. 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 using the postal service to send what a judge called “grossly offensive” letters to families of soldiers killed in Afghanistan between 2007 and 2009.

At the time, Monis said his letters were “flowers of advice,” adding: “Always, I stand behind my beliefs.”

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.

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.

Throughout the day, several people were seen with their arms in the air and hands pressed against the window of the cafe, with 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 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 (hash)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.

Some of the hostages were 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.

“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 thanked 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 in a Facebook post.

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.”

Associated Press writers Rod McGuirk in Canberra, Nick Perry in Wellington, New Zealand, Jocelyn Gecker in Bangkok, Shawn Pogatchnik in Dublin and Maamoun Youssef in Cairo contributed to this report.


Grief for those Killed at the Lindt Café in Sydney by Refugee Islamikaze Man Haron Monis

Neither the late Katrina Dawson, 38, mother of three and a rising star in the Sydney bar or regular patrons thought anything out of the ordinary having a morning coffee at the Lindt Café in Martin Place, the heart of the city’s business financial district. Neither did the other 16 patrons, whether they were regulars, Christmas shoppers or tourists. At 9:42AM Monday a bearded man wearing a head band with an Arabic inscription, clothed in a long white tee shirt entered carrying a blue bag causing terror.

He extracted from the bag a pump shot gun and a Hizb ut-Tahrir black flag with the white inscription of the Islamic Shahada, “There is no god but God, Muhammad is the messenger of God.” He then asked the terrified patrons to stand against one of the windows with hands pressed against a window facing Channel 7 across the way holding the Shahada flag. A 16 hour standoff ended when police Swat teams entered early Tuesday amidst exploding flash bang grenades and semi-automatic gunfire. This occurred after a sniper reported “hostage down”.

Watch this CBS and Sky News Australia video of the deadly Hostage standoff at the Lindt Café in Sydney:

Man Haron Manis perpetrator of Lindt Café hostage taking.

The perpetrator of the hostage taking at Lindt Café was self-styled Muslim Cleric, 50 year old Iranian Man Haron Monis with a history of convictions for violence was shot dead.

Unfortunately Ms. Dawson and Lindt café Manager, 34 year old Tori Johnson were killed. Johnson had tried to seize the perpetrator’s weapon. Five others were wounded including a policeman whose head was hit by shot gun pellets, the others suffered gunshot wounds. Earlier in the hostage standoff two patrons and three Lindt café workers escaped, when the perpetrator had nodded off.

Australian PM Tony Abbott lays wreathes at Lindt Café Memorial. Source: CBC world news.

The shock and grief reverberated throughout Sydney and Australia, indeed the West, about the loss of lives of Ms. Dawson and Mr. Johnson and surviving shooting victims. The shock was this could happen in broad daylight and was according to Australian PM Abbott “the worst terrorist incident in 35 years in Australia.” The largest terror event was Australia’s “9/11” that occurred in Bali, Indonesia on October 10, 2002 with 200 Australians lost their lives when an Indonesian Al Qaeda affiliate bombed a popular tourist nightspot. Hundreds of Sydneysiders poured out expressions of mourning with memorial floral tributes placed at the Lindt café site praying to comfort the loss of Ms. Dawson and Mr. Johnson and those injured in the explosive shoot out that ended the hostage taking.

Amirah Droudis and Man Haron Monis accomplices in murder of his ex-wife.

Monis, the perpetrator was an Iranian national who had been given asylum as a political refugee in 1996 by Australia. He was a self styled Muslim cleric who ran a so-called spiritual health center. He was notoriously well known to Sydneysiders. He had more that 40 charges of sexual assault and was freed on bail as an accessory in the murder of his ex-wife, 30 year old Noleen Hayson Pal by Monis’ companion, Amirah Droudis. Moniz’s ex- wife was stabbed more than 30 times and lit on fire in the stairwell of an apartment complex in April 2013. Ironically Monis might have been thwarted from his lethal spectacle in Sydney, had he been remanded to police custody. Instead both he and the perpetrator Ms. Droudis were released on bail for their roles in the capital crime of murder.

Monis had raised the public ire of Australians for letters sent to the families of Australian soldiers killed in the Afghanistan war, accusing their sons of committing genocide against civilians. He was sentenced to 300 hours of community service for this action. One deceased Jewish Australian soldier’s family was told in their letter from anti-Semitic Monis that “Jews were no better than Hitler.” The Algemeiner noted this anti-Semitic screed quoted by a New South Wales prosecutor in a trial brought on charges against letter writers Monis and Droudis:

Monis described the soldier as a “dirty animal.”

“Some Jews who blame Hitler for violations of human rights are not much better than him,” the letter continued. “When the body of a murderer of civilians is sent back to Australia, we must not respect the body such a body does not deserve a respectful ceremony.”

Monis, while originally raised as a Shia in Iran, recanted his sect and allegedly converted to become a Sunni Muslim. He could be seen on the streets of Sydney in a Sharia compliant gabila with white turban girded in chains parading with handmade posters accusing New South Wales police and prosecutors for violation of his human rights. Monis’ lawyer, Manny Conditsis said he may have been “unhinged about the prospect of more jail time” and” had “nothing to lose”. Conditsis defended his late client’s allegation s of being tortured while in custody, found him extremely fundamentalist but “not a jihadist.” Conditsis contended the only reason that Monis walked free until trial was the alleged poor case the New South Wales prosecutors put on in court.

Monis, in his new role as a Sunni extremist wanted to create a spectacle. He seized the opportunity to carry out his Islamikaze jihad against the innocent patrons and staff at the Lindt Café in Sydney’s financial district. He was an Islamikaze, and had nothing to lose he was free awaiting a court appearance in February of 2015. As former Hebrew University professor and author of the book, Islamikaze: Manifestations of Islamic Martyrology responded when we questioned him about so-called lone wolf canards to describe Canadian and US attacks this fall:

Of course they are Islamikaze. Because even if in these cases they acted alone, they must have been indoctrinated and motivated, or shown the example by someone. No lone wolf just gets up in the morning and decides to murder human beings. Besides, Islamikaze has an element of self-sacrifice. A common murderer would do it for personal gain of some sort. Here, in both Canadian and US cases, they committed the murder, being aware of the danger of risking their lives, and they were not deterred.

After all if ISIS could behead Muslims and infidels, more recently Christian children, in Syria and Iraq, then Monis could kill his infidels in Sydney’s Martin Place. After all ISIS had urged local Jihadis down under to follow in the way of Allah.

That was not possible for ordinary peace loving Muslims. Keysar Trad, founder of the Islamic Friendship Association of Australia was reported by the BBC to have said:”This man is damaged goods. He came across as someone with a serious mental illness.” Another Australian Muslim leader gave the usual excuse that Monis was “a bit of a loner and isolated from the Muslim Community.

Several Muslims came to Martin Place to express their grief, deposit memorial flowers and roll out prayer rugs to pray. The Australian Muslim Association said this about the Shahada flag, that it is “testimony of faith that has been misappropriated by misguided individuals.” Tolerant Australians fearful of retribution against the estimated 500,000 Muslims established a ride sharing social media message, #IllRideWithYou used more than 90,000 times by late Monday evening. Australia has an estimated 24 million in population in the Sydney business center during the Christmas shopping season couldn’t bring himself to face the reality that something inside the Islamic canon might have motivated Monis to carry out his deadly act. Prime Minister Abbott said:

It was appalling and ugly tragedy.This is a very disturbing incident,It is profoundly shocking that innocent people should be held hostage by an armed person claiming political motivation.

CBS News cited the earlier efforts by Australian Counter terrorism and ISIS spokesman specifically targeting Australians:

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, also known as ISIL. 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 Sydney.

The Islamic State group, which holds a third of Syria and Iraq, has threatened Australia in the past. In September, its spokesman Abu Mohammed al-Adnani issued a message urging attacks abroad, specifically mentioning Australia.

There were the usual cries of “lone wolf” by Australian and US counterterrorism experts and news commentators. Former CIA deputy director, Mike Morrell, a CBS news contributor on national security said social media was the culprit. He should know having perpetrated the myth that a cheaply made anti-Islam video on the internet triggered the deadly terrorist attacks on 9/11-12/2012 in Benghazi that took the lives of four Americans.

It was left to an Australian Clive Kessler, an Emeritus Professor of Sociology & Anthropology at the University of New South Wales, Sydney and expert on Political Islam to write this political incorrect assessment of the “ugly tragedy” that occurred Tuesday morning at the Lindt Café in Sydney:

Yesterday’s dreadful events, we were told, “had nothing to do really with properly understood Islam per se,” but were simply an awful gesture spawned from it. I offer this comment, again, not “to have a go” at Islam, but to make clear why I find so much of the commentary upon it to which our media treat us confused and deficient.

Again, as when I recently questioned the simple typification that “Islam is a religion of peace,” my main point was to challenge the sheer mindlessness and inadequacy of the way that this argument is continually proffered to discourage, stigmatize, and block all serious enquiry into, and discussion of, the inherent tensions and problems

CBS News cited the earlier efforts by Australian Counter terrorism about an ISIS spokesman specifically targeting Australians:

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, also known as ISIL. 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 Sydney.

The Islamic State group, which holds a third of Syria and Iraq, has threatened Australia in the past. In September, its spokesman Abu Mohammed al-Adnani issued a message urging attacks abroad, specifically mentioning Australia.

There were the usual cries of “lone wolf” by Australian and US counterterrorism experts and news commentators. Former CIA deputy director, Mike Morrell, a CBS news contributor on national security said social media was the culprit. He should know having perpetrated the myth that a cheaply made anti-Islam video on the internet triggered the deadly terrorist attacks on 9/11-12/2012 in Benghazi that took the lives of four Americans.

It was left to an Australian Clive Kessler, an Emeritus Professor of Sociology & Anthropology at the University of New South Wales, and expert on Political Islam to write this political incorrect assessment of the “ugly tragedy” that occurred Tuesday morning at the Lindt Café in Sydney:

Yesterday’s dreadful events, we were told, “had nothing to do really with properly understood Islam per se,” but were simply an awful gesture spawned from it. I offer this comment, again, not “to have a go” at Islam, but to make clear why I find so much of the commentary upon it to which our media treat us confused and deficient.

Again, as when I recently questioned the simple typification that “Islam is a religion of peace,” my main point was to challenge the sheer mindlessness and inadequacy of the way that this argument is continually proffered to discourage, stigmatize, and block all serious enquiry into, and discussion of, the inherent tensions and problems within the Islamic tradition, including Islamic doctrine as it has evolved from its very origins.

“It’s got nothing to do with Islam really, it just has to do with what [some] Muslims make of it.”

So it does have something, something important, to do with Islam-important because that is where its origins and, however “misconceived” and unwelcome, its justification lies or is found.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review. All photographs are courtesy of the New English Review.


Australian police end Sydney’s Lindt Café hostage crisis

Three people, including the gunman, died after Australian Police commandos entered Sydney's Lindt Café to bring an end to the hostage crisis.

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Three people, including the gunman, died after Australian Police commandos entered Sydney’s Lindt Café to bring an end to the hostage crisis.

The gunfight at the café, which is located in Martin Place in Sydney’s financial district, also wounded four hostages, including a male police officer who suffered non life-threatening injuries to his face from gunshot pellets.

Approximately 17 people were taken hostage by Man Haron Monis, a self-proclaimed Iranian cleric, on 15 December and were forced to hold up a black flag with white Arabic writing against the café’s windows.

Five managed to flee within a few hours of the siege, while another seven escaped minutes before armed policemen entered the building.

According to local media reports, Monis was a known extremist and criminal, and was on bail facing a number of charges, including being an accessory to the murder of his ex-wife.

The 50-year-old was granted political asylum in Australia in 1996.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said: "As the siege unfolded yesterday, he sought to cloak his actions with the symbolism of the ISIL death cult.

"These events do demonstrate that even a country as free, as open, as generous and as safe as ours is vulnerable to acts of politically motivated violence but they also demonstrate that … we are ready to respond.

"Australians should be reassured by the way our law enforcement and security agencies responded to this brush with terrorism."

Meanwhile, the New South Wales Police department has started a probe into the incident.

In September, Australia raised its threat level to high and remains on high alert for attacks by home-grown militants returning from fighting with the Islamic State (IS) in the Middle East.

The terrorist group has threatened Australia in the past, with its spokesperson Abu Mohammed al-Adnani releasing an audio message urging ‘lone wolf’ attacks abroad, specifically mentioning Australia, Al Jazeera reported.

The country is part of a coalition conducting air strikes against IS militants in Iraq.


Sydney café hostage recounts harrowing escape from crazed gunman Man Haron Monis

Five hours into the siege at the Sydney chocolate shop, John O'Brien turned to fellow hostage Stefan Balafoutis and told him they had to get out of there.

"I said to the barrister, 'look, this is not going to end well, this guy will never get out of here alive, and he's going to take everyone with him,'" O'Brien whispered.

"Good idea," the lawyer replied.

And with those words, O'Brien and Balafoutis set into motion their great escape from Lindt Chocolat Café — and from the Iranian-born madman who had taken them and 15 other people hostage.

The images of the pair running toward the police were among the most compelling from the 16-hour drama, which ended Tuesday with the deaths of gunman Man Haron Monis and two of his hostages.

In the first detailed account from a siege survivor, O'Brien told the Associated Press he was polishing off some raisin toast and a cappuccino when Monis barged inside Monday and whipped out a shotgun.

O'Brien, an 82-year-old former professional tennis player, said Monis immediately grabbed cafe manager Tori Johnson and made him lock the door.

Then Monis ordered O'Brien and the others to stand in the windows and hold up a black flag with the Islamic declaration of faith that the gunman had brought along.

O'Brien, who was the oldest hostage, still plays competitive tennis. But after standing for about 45 minutes, he said he pretended to be tired to conserve his energy — and defied Monis by sitting down.

Monis was, at first, furious. Eventually he relented and allowed some of the other captives to sit down as well.

Sydney hostage crisis

O'Brien said that in the ensuing hours, Monis made the hostages relay his increasingly crazy demands to the police for an Islamic State flag and to speak directly with Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

Meanwhile, O'Brien rested his head on a table, wrestled with hunger pangs and exhaustion, thought about his wife, Maureen, and his two daughters — and plotted his escape.

It was then, O'Brien said, that he noticed a big advertisement on the wall beside the cafe's front doors — and the green button that he suspected controlled those doors.

O'Brien said he gave Balafoutis a sign and — after several tries — managed to squeeze behind the sign without Monis noticing. But as he reached for the button, he suddenly hesitated.

What if the button didn't operate the doors and was actually an alarm? What would happen to the hostages if he and Balafoutis escaped?


Three killed as Sydney police storm café to end siege

Heavily armed Australian police stormed a Sydney café early on Tuesday morning and freed a number of hostages being held there at gunpoint, in a dramatic end to a 16-hour siege in which three people, including the attacker, were killed.

  • The hostage crisis at the Lindt café ended when police stormed the building shortly after 2am local time, Sydney police said.
  • The hostage-taker, Man Haron Monis, is one of three fatalities at the scene and thatat least four other people were seriously wounded.
  • The deceased hostages were a 34-year-old man and 38-year-old woman.
  • It remains unclear how many people were held hostage.Some hostages had been seen holding up a black-and-white flag bearing an Islamic message.
  • Monis was charged last year with being an accessory to his ex-wife’s murder. He was convicted in 2012 of sending threatening letters to the relatives of Australian soldiers killed in Afghanistan, local media reported. Earlier this year he was charged with the 2002 sexual assault of a Sydney woman.
  • Lindt said it would offer support to the victims and their families, as well as any employees affected by the event.

For all the day's events as they happened, read FRANCE 24's live blog below. If you are reading this on a mobile phone or tablet, click here.

Press F5 or refresh if you have any problems viewing the blog.

See below for a look at the hostage stand-off in pictures.


Memorial

The public also has the opportunity to reflect, at the site where more than 100,000 bunches of flowers were placed in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy.

In 2017, a monument was unveiled, comprising 210 hand-crafted flowers set into mirrored, glass-covered boxes, and laid into the ground at Martin Place, a block back from the Lindt cafe.

The designing of Reflection had input from the Dawson and Johnson families, and includes the favourite flowers of the victims - aqua hydrangeas for Katrina Dawson, and yellow sunflowers, for Tori Johnson.

Dignitaries, family and close friends inspect the permanent memorial honouring the lives of Tori Johnson and Katrina Dawson at Martin Place. Credit: Jessica Hromas / AAPIMAGE


Three Dead in Sydney Lindt Café Hostage Crisis - Recipes

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - DECEMBER 16: Police stand guard near the Lindt Chocolate Cafe in Martin Place following a hostage standoff on December 16, 2014 in Sydney, Australia. Two were reported dead after police stormed the Sydney cafe after a gunman had been holding hostages for 16 hours. (Photo by Joosep Martinson/Getty Images) Joosep Martinson/Getty Images Police escort a hostage (2ndR) with the help of a paramedic (R) during a hostage siege in the central business district of Sydney on December 16, 2014. Police stormed the Sydney cafe where a gunman had taken hostages and displayed an Islamic flag, television footage showed early December 16. At least two people were killed, television reports said early Tuesday. AFP PHOTO/William WEST (Photo credit should read WILLIAM WEST/AFP/Getty Images) WILLIAM WEST/AFP/Getty Images A deceased hostage is carried out of a cafe in the central business district of Sydney on December 16, 2014. Police stormed the Sydney cafe where a gunman had taken hostages and displayed an Islamic flag, television footage showed early December 16. Police have confirmed the siege is over. AFP PHOTO/Peter PARKS (Photo credit should read PETER PARKS/AFP/Getty Images) PETER PARKS/AFP/Getty Images An injured hostage (R) is carried out of a cafe in the central business district of Sydney on December 16, 2014. Police stormed the Sydney cafe where a gunman had taken hostages and displayed an Islamic flag, television footage showed early December 16. AFP PHOTO/Peter PARKS (Photo credit should read PETER PARKS/AFP/Getty Images) PETER PARKS/AFP/Getty Images SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - DECEMBER 15: (EDITORS NOTE: Retransmission with alternate crop.) A woman is carried out by police from the Lindt Cafe, Martin Place following a hostage standoff on December 15, 2014 in Sydney, Australia. Police stormed the Sydney cafe as a gunman had been holding hostages for 16 hours. (Photo by Joosep Martinson/Getty Images) Joosep Martinson/Getty Images Hostages run out of a cafe in the central business district of Sydney on December 16, 2014. Police stormed the Sydney cafe where a gunman had taken hostages and displayed an Islamic flag, television footage showed early December 16. AFP PHOTO/Peter PARKS (Photo credit should read PETER PARKS/AFP/Getty Images) PETER PARKS/AFP/Getty Images A hostage runs to armed tactical response police officers for safety after she escaped from a cafe under siege at Martin Place in the central business district of Sydney, Australia, on Monday. Rob Griffith/AP

11:01 a.m.: 3 dead, including gunman, in Sydney crisis

Sydney police say three people have died, including the gunman, during a hostage crisis that ended when officers stormed a downtown cafe.

Police said the gunman was killed in a confrontation with police early Tuesday morning. They said in a statement that a 34-year-old man and a 38-year-old woman also died. Four other people were injured.

Police said an investigation is underway because police were involved in an incident in which people died.

Heavily armed police stormed the cafe in the heart of Sydney, ending a siege by an Iranian-born gunman who had held an unknown number of hostages for more than 16 hours.

— Kristen Gelineau/Associated Press

9:46 a.m.: At least one injured

At least one person was wounded after a hostage situation at a Sydney cafe early Tuesday that ended when police swarmed the building.

A police spokesman confirmed "the operation is over," but would not release any other details about the fate of the gunman, identified as Man Haron Monis.

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 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.

Throughout the day, several people were seen with their arms in the air and hands pressed against the window of the cafe, with 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.

7:54 a.m.: Police say Sydney cafe hostage situation over

Police say a hostage situation in Sydney is over after a swarm of heavily armed police stormed a downtown cafe where a gunman had been holding an unknown number of people.

A police spokesman confirmed "the operation is over" early Tuesday but would not release any further details.

Police swooped into the Lindt Chocolat Cafe shortly after five or six hostages were seen running out of 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.

ABC, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, captured the raid on video:

7:50 a.m.: Police storm Sydney cafe where hostages held

A flurry of loud bangs erupted early Tuesday as a swarm of heavily armed police stormed a downtown Sydney cafe where a gunman had been holding an unknown number of people hostage for more than 16 hours.

Police swooped into the Lindt Chocolat Cafe shortly after five or six hostages were seen running out of 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 dramatic scene 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.

— Kristen Gelineau/Associated Press

6:47 a.m.: 5 escape from Sydney cafe, where they were held hostage

Five hostages escaped from a Sydney cafe, where they were being held hostage by a gunman on Monday.

The situation began unfolding shortly before 10 a.m. Monday, Australia time, and more than 12 hours later, an unknown number of hostages remained inside the Lindt Chocolat Cafe in downtown Sydney.

A large portion of Australia's largest city is under lockdown and police in tactical gear have surrounded the cafe.

The Sydney Morning Herald quotes New South Wales Deputy Police Commissioner Cath Burn as saying that fewer than 30 hostages are still in the building.

The motive is still unknown, but shortly after the gunman entered the building, hostages were seen at the window of the chocolate store holding up a black flag with the shahada, an Islamic creed declaring Allah as the true God.