- 2 slain hostages named as Tori Johnson, Katrina Dawson
- Johnson was manager of Lindt Chocolat Café, Dawson a lawyer
- Gunman ID'd as Man Haron Monis, 50
- Monis faced charges of sex assault, accessory to murder
The two hostages killed during a 16-hour siege at a Sydney café have been identified as Katrina Dawson, 38, a lawyer and mother of three, and Tori Johnson, 34, the manager of the establishment. The Iranian-born gunman who took them and 15 others hostage also died when police stormed the Lindt Chocolat Café in the heart of Sydney's financial district early Tuesday.
Lindt Australia released a statement on its Facebook page saying Johnson had worked for the company for two years.
"He was a great ambassador for our company and the store that he managed, which he cared about passionately," the statement from Lindt Australia CEO Stephen Loane said. "He was a dedicated professional who always built a great rapport with his customers and was much loved by the Lindt team.
"By nature, he was a perfectionist, and he had a genuine passion for the hospitality industry and people. He was a really important part of our management team in Australia, and his loss is absolutely tragic."
Dawson was also remembered as a bright professional well-liked and respected by her colleagues.
"Katrina was one of our best and brightest barristers who will be greatly missed by her colleagues and friends," Jane Needham, president of the New South Wales Bar Association, said in a statement. "She was a devoted mother of three children and a valued member of her floor and of our bar community."
Police give details of wounded
Four people were wounded in the siege, and two pregnant women were hospitalized as a precaution. On Tuesday, police gave an update on their status:
- A 75-year-old female: gunshot wound to the shoulder — stable condition.
- A 52-year-old female: gunshot wound to the foot — stable.
- A 43-year-old female: gunshot wound to the leg — stable.
- A 39-year-old male: minor facial injury due to gunshot – treated at hospital and discharged.
- A 35-year-old pregnant female: assessed for health and welfare purposes — stable.
- A 30-year-old pregnant female: assessed for health and welfare purposes — stable.
Police stormed the café in the heart of Sydney's financial district shortly after 2 a.m. local time after they heard a number of gunshots from inside, ending a siege that lasted almost 16 hours.
- Who was Man Haron Monis?
- Sydney radio host received multiple calls from hostage during siege at café
"They made the call because they believed that at that time, if they didn't enter, there would have been many more lives lost," said New South Wales state police Commissioner Andrew Scipione.
"Until we were involved in this emergency action, we believed that no one had been injured. That changed. We changed our tactic."
Scipione wouldn't say whether the two hostages who were killed were caught in crossfire or shot by the gunman.
Harper calls siege 'barbaric act of depravity'
'[The gunman] had a long history of violent crime, infatuation with extremism and mental instability.' - Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott
Local media identified the hostage-taker as 50-year-old Man Haron Monis, and a police official confirmed his identity. Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the gunman "was well known to state and Commonwealth authorities" and had been prosecuted for sending offensive letters to the families of Australian soldiers killed in Afghanistan.
"He had a long history of violent crime, infatuation with extremism and mental instability," Abbott said at a news conference in Canberra Tuesday morning local time.
Abbott said Monis also posted "graphic, extremist material" online.
"As the siege unfolded yesterday, he sought to cloak his actions with the symbolism of the ISIL-death cult," Abbott said referring to the extremist group ISIS, also known as ISIL or Islamic State. "Tragically, there are people in our community ready to engage in politically motivated violence."
Canada's prime minister, Stephen Harper, issued a statement expressing condolences to the friends and families of those who died and a "speedy recovery" to those injured.
"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," the statement said. "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."
No bombs found
The standoff, which began around 9:45 a.m. local time Monday, ended when a loud bang was heard from the café 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.
There were originally 17 people inside the café when the siege began.
Police said an investigation is underway because police were involved in an incident in which people died.
Monis came to Australia as a political refugee from Iran and was granted asylum. He 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.
One-off act, says lawyer
"This is a one-off random individual. It's not a concerted terrorism event or act," his former lawyer, Manny Conditsis, told Australian Broadcasting Corp. "It's a damaged-goods individual who's done something outrageous.
"His ideology is just so strong and so powerful that it clouds his vision for common sense and objectiveness."
The siege began around 9:45 a.m. local time 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 café would have been taken captive as they stopped in for their morning coffees.
Flag in window displayed Shahada
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 café, 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 café 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."
Australians show solidarity with Muslims
In a show of solidarity on Twitter, many Australians offered to accompany people dressed in Muslim clothes who were afraid of a backlash after the café siege. The hashtag #IllRideWithYou had been used more than 90,000 times by late Monday evening local time.
Seven Network television news staff watched the gunman and hostages for hours from a fourth-floor window of their Sydney offices, opposite the café.
The gunman could be seen pacing back and forth past the café'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 café and the hostages were fed.
Lindt sends sympathies on Facebook
As night set in, the lights inside the café 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.
'There haven't been statements from overseas linking this to extremist groups outside the country.' - Charles Knight, lecturer, Macquarie University
Australia's government raised the country's terror warning level in September in response to the domestic threat posed by supporters of the militant group ISIS, also known as Islamic State. 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 ISIS leader in Syria to behead a random person in downtown Sydney.
ISIS, which now holds a third of Syria and Iraq, has threatened Australia in the past. In September, the group's 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."