Stephen Harper condemns hostage incident in Australia


PRIME Minister Stephen Harper on Monday said: “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.

“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.”

Harper said: “On behalf of all Canadians, Laureen and I offer our deepest condolences to the family and friends of the hostages who perished in Sydney.  We also offer prayers that those injured have a speedy recovery.”


IANS adds:


Sydney / Canberra: Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbot Wednesday announced an inquiry into the Sydney hostage crisis that left three people, including the hostage-taker, dead, media reported.

The inquiry will be conducted by federal and New South Wales (NSW) officials who would report back by the end of January and would focus on how the perpetrator, Man Haron Monis, evaded authorities, The Canberra Times reported.

Monis had a history of violence and was well known to state and federal police and the domestic spy agency Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO).

The police will inquire how Monis got permanent residency in Australia, why he was receiving welfare payments, how he got a gun licence, why he was allowed out into the community on bail and why he had fallen off the terror watch list in 2009.

Prime Minister Abbott said he would “not rest” until he was confident that Australians were as safe as the government could make them.

He said there was “incredulity” in the national security committee of the cabinet when it was briefed on the details of Monis’s life.

Monis moved to Australia from Iran in 1996 and received political asylum in 2001.

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) on Thursday conceded that they misinformed Abbott about whether Sydney siege gunman Man Haron Monis held a firearms licence.
Abbott later clarified his comments after New South Wales (NSW) Police responded by insisting there was “no record of the 50-year-old ever holding one”.
ABBOTT on Tuesday said that the gunman at the centre of the Sydney siege, in which two hostages were shot dead, was known to the federal police and had an “infatuation with extremism”.

Abbott described the hostage drama, which brought central Sydney to a standstill, as a “brush with terrorism”.

While there remains confusion regarding the motivations behind the attack, Abbott suggested the perpetrator, named as 50-year-old Man Haron Monis, sought to “cloak his actions” with certain Islamic State terror groups.

He confirmed that Monis took 17 hostages, with two of them, and the gunman, dying at the scene.

“Five other people, four hostages and a NSW [New South Wales] police officer, were injured. Although it is not yet known to state authorities what the motivations behind the attack were, Abbott revealed links to Islamic State groups and that the gunman had a long history with violent crime.

Monis, an Iranian cleric, was on bail for being an accessory to the murder of his ex-wife, as well as facing more than 40 charges of sexual assault. He had previously been convicted for sending offensive letters to families of deceased Australian soldiers.

“What we do know is that the perpetrator was well known to state and Commonwealth authorities,” Abbott added.

“He had a long history of violent crime, infatuation with extremism and mental instability. We know that he sent offensive letters to the families of Australian soldiers killed in Afghanistan and was found guilty of offences related to this. We also know that he posted graphic extremist material online.”

Abbott also noted: “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 remind us that Australia and Australians are resilient and we are ready to respond.”

The 16-hour hostage crisis — the first terror attack in Australia — ended early Tuesday after police stormed the Lindt Chocolate Cafe using flash grenades and firing dozens of gunshots, several hostages — panic writ large on their faces — fled with their hands raised past advancing heavily armed policemen.

One of them was Ankireddy Vishwakant, an employee of software major Infosys who hailed from Guntur in Andhra Pradesh and was recently granted Australian citizenship. Media reports identified the second Indian as Pushpendu Ghosh.

The Indian government confirmed that two Indians had been held hostage and both had survived the ordeal.

The chilling incident took place in Sydney’s central business district and barely 400 meters from the Indian Consulate, which was promptly evacuated.

Also located in the vicinity are the offices of India Tourism, State Bank of India, Bank of Baroda and New India Insurance.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi – who was in Sydney in November – was among the first to condemn the attack.

“Such acts are inhuman and deeply unfortunate. I pray for everyone’s safety.”

The anxious hostages were earlier seen standing with their hands raised at the expansive French windows of Lindt Chocolate Cafe at Martin Place.

A black and white apparently jihadi flag was held up in one window.

Indian diplomat Bahade said that soon after the hostage crisis began, the Indian consulate was evacuated.