Australia reeling in aftermath of a siege in Sydney where two hostages have lost their lives.
Lindt store manager Tori Johnson ,34 and lawyer Katrina Dawson are being hailed heroes after they died while reportedly protecting other hostages.
Police stormed the Lindt Chocolate cafe in the business district of Sydney in the early hours of Tuesday, around 2.22am Sydney time, after they heard gunshots coming from the cafe where a gunman- now identified as Man Haron Monis, had been holding about 17 people hostage since Monday morning. A statement by Sydney police said that the gunman, who had “a serious history of criminal offences and a history of violence,” was also fatally wounded during the operation.
Five hostages including employees at the cafe managed to escape through the fire exit during the 16 hour siege which saw the capital city in lock down as a preventative measure. One of the country’s landmarks The Sydney Opera House was shut down and all performances for Monday and Tuesday cancelled, while shops, offices and schools within a close perimeter of the scene of the incident were shut and the whole area evacuated.
Sydney security forces say while they don’t think Monis was linked to IS forces or Al Qaeda, he was known to police for a string of criminal offences, one of which he was out on bail for when he walked into the cafe in Sydney armed with a shotgun.
His lawyer claims he acted out of desperation because of the pressures of his long list of court cases, some of which include sexual assault charges and accessory to murder. Monis also reportedly disagreed with government policies to send Australian soldiers to war zones in the middle east and had been wrapped by the police for sending very offensive letters to families of soldiers who had gone to serve abroad.
Originally from Iran, the 50-year-old was granted asylum in Australia in 2001.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbot who laid flowers at a memorial for the two victims of the siege said it was a “testing, taxing and troubling 36 hours for the people of Australia”.