Sydney siege update: victims named as details of gunman emerge

Man and woman dead after being 'caught up in the sick fantasy of a deeply disturbed individual' during Sydney siege

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - DECEMBER 15:People run with there hands up from the Lindt Cafe, Martin Place during a hostage standoff on December 15, 2014 in Sydney, Australia.Police stormed the Sydney
(Image credit: 2014 Getty Images)

The two hostages who died in the Sydney siege have been named as barrister Katrina Dawson, 38, and the cafe's manager Tori Johnson, 34.

The gunman Man Haron Monis, 50, who held 17 people hostage, was also killed as police commandos stormed the cafe in Martin Place early on Tuesday morning.

The 17-hour standoff ended with a barrage of gunfire that also left four people wounded, including a police officer.

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It is unclear who fired the shots that killed the two hostages, but an investigation into the police operation is underway.

Dawson, a respected commercial barrister and mother of three young children, was having coffee with a colleague when the gunman walked in to the cafe.

Johnson had worked at the Lindt Chocolat Cafe for two years. Police are yet to confirm reports in local media that he tried to wrestle the gunman's weapon away from him to help other hostages escape.

Monis, an Iranian refugee who received political asylum in Australia in 1996, was known to police but was not on the country's terror watch list.

He had previously been convicted of sending offensive letters to the families of dead Australian soldiers and he was facing more than 40 sexual and indecent assault charges. He was also on bail for allegedly being an accessory to his ex-wife's murder.

During the siege, Monis used hostages to relay his demands to media outlets. When they refused to broadcast them, he made his hostages deliver messages on YouTube, reports the Daily Telegraph.

His script, read by terrified hostages, said the siege was an Islamic State attack on Australia. The demands included sending an Islamic State flag into the cafe and speaking with Prime Minister Tony Abbott via live broadcast.

Some posts also warned that there were other bombs in the city, with two "brothers" in control of detonating the devices.

Abbott has paid tribute to the two hostages, describing them as "decent, good people" who were "caught up in the sick fantasy of a deeply disturbed individual".

Sydney siege ends as police storm Martin Place cafe

15 December

Armed police have stormed a café in Sydney where Iranian refugee Man Haron Monis had been holding dozens of people hostage.

Paramedics and police rushed into the building in Martin Place early on Tuesday morning local time. The raid came after a series of loud bangs were heard in the Lindt chocolate shop and café where the gunman was holding 12 hostages.

Alarms sounded as a number of people were stretchered from the scene, before a bomb squad moved into position outside the café.

New South Wales police then confirmed that the incident had come to an end: "Sydney siege is over," the force tweeted from its official account. "More details to follow."

It subsequently emerged that three people had died in the cafe.

"A 34-year-old man and a woman aged 38 were pronounced dead after being taken to hospital, as was the gunman," the BBC reports. Four other people were hurt, including a policeman who received minor injuries from shotgun pellets.

It is unclear who fired the shots which killed the hostages, but local reports suggest that the gunman had opened fire before police stormed the cafe.

Sydney's central business district had been on lockdown for 18 hours as police negotiated with the gunman. Visibly distressed hostages were forced to hold an Islamic flag against the cafe window shortly after the siege began.

During the siege the gunman was named as Man Haron Monis, who was on bail in connection with the murder of his ex-wife, and with a string of sexual assaults, according to Australian news site 9 News.

The BBC says that Monis styled himself a Muslim cleric, but 9 News quotes a local community leader who says that he did not have the support of mainstream Muslims.

He had initially taken 17 hostages, but five escaped about six hours into the siege and said they had been told that there were two bombs inside and two bombs outside the cafe.

The gunman was said to have been in contact with local media outlets, but police had asked that his demands are not publicised, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. Later reports suggested that an Islamic State flag was among his demands.

The flag held up by hostages was similar to but not the same as that used by the Islamic State militant group in the Middle East, according to BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner.

It has been translated as saying: "There is no god but Allah, Mohammed is the messenger of God."

Gardner points out that Australia raised its terror threat level in September and has sent fighter jets to join the US-led coalition conducting air strikes against IS militants in Iraq.

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