One hostage and Man Haron Monis, a self-styled Islamic cleric who took around 30 people hostage at a Sydney café on Monday, are dead after heavily armed Australian police raided the café at roughly 2:15 a.m. on Tuesday, Sydney time, following a 16-hour standoff, according to local media. Three others were seriously injured, including one police officer.
Five people were taken away on stretchers shortly after police stormed the Lindt Chocolate Café in Martin Place, an upscale retail area in Sydney, although it is unclear how they were injured or what their injures are. Unconfirmed reports said police did not initiate the raid but were forced to act after Monis opened fire in the café with around a dozen or so hostages still there.
UPDATE 2:17 p.m. EST: The New South Wales Police Force announced that two hostages were killed during the shootout between police and the shooter: a 34-year-old man and a 38-year-old woman. Two women and a male police officer were taken to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries. The NSW Police Force will investigate the deaths of the individuals.
An intense barrage of gunfire was heard emanating from the café as SWAT-style police stormed through a back door after tossing a number of flash grenades inside to disorientate Monis. Five people had fled the café just prior to the raid. Sky News has footage of the raid.
â€” Sky News (@SkyNews) December 15, 2014
Police used a bomb-defusing robot because Monis claimed he had set bombs in and around the café. Monis made his hostages hold a “Black Standard” flag, an Islamic flag with the Shahada, or declaration of faith, written on it. He requested the Islamic State group’s flag, which is a form of the Black Standard. He also requested to speak with Prime Minister Tony Abbott.
Manny Conditsis, Monis’ former lawyer said that Monis’ actions were not part of a larger plot by an extremist organization such as the Islamic State group. “His ideology is just so strong and so powerful that it clouds his vision for common sense and objectiveness,” he said, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. “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.”
British Prime Minister David Cameron said the attack “demonstrates the risk of Islamic extremists around the world.”