Sydney cafe siege: Probe into gunman's asylum and gun licence

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Media captionTony Abbott promised the Australian people he "will never let them down"

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has announced a review into the background and security checks on the man behind the Sydney cafe siege.

Mr Abbott said questions must be asked about how Man Haron Monis was not on a watch list despite a history of violence and mental instability.

Monis died along with two hostages on Tuesday when police raided the cafe he had taken over in the centre of Sydney.

He was facing charges of sexual assault and being an accessory to murder.

Monis had a history of religiously motivated activism and called himself a cleric, but officials have said there is as yet no evidence his actions were linked to international Islamist militant networks, despite his use of a flag with the Islamic creed on it during the siege.

New South Wales Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione said earlier that the separate investigation into the actions of police officers was well advanced, but that he believed officers made "absolutely the right call" in storming the Lindt Chocolat cafe in Martin Place.

'Long record of violence'

Monis was from Iran and was granted asylum in Australia in 1996.

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Image caption The Lindt Chocolat Cafe is cordoned off while police investigate the crime scene
Image copyright EPA
Image caption Police had asked the courts not to grant bail to Monis

The day before the siege, he had been refused the right to appeal against a conviction for sending "grossly offensive" letters to the families of dead Australian soldiers.

Iran also says he was wanted there over fraud allegations, but that Australia had refused to extradite him 14 years ago.

Speaking in Canberra on Wednesday, Mr Abbott said he had great confidence in the police and security services, but that he wanted "answers to some obvious questions that have been raised in the wake of this terrorist incident".

He said the authorities needed to know how Monis had acquired permanent residency in Australia, how he lived on welfare for many years while apparently physically able, how he obtained a gun licence and "how someone with such a long record of violence and instability was out on bail".

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Media captionNew video showed commandos inside the cafe and a series of flashes

How the 16-hour Sydney siege unfolded

  • 1. At 09:45 on Monday local time (22:45 GMT Sunday) police are called to the Lindt Chocolat Cafe in Sydney following reports of an armed robbery. It soon emerges a gunman is holding a number of people hostage.
  • 2. Between 16:00-17:00, three men, then two women, sprint to safety from the cafe's side door - a fire exit.
  • 3. Just after 02:00 on Tuesday, a loud bang is heard from the cafe and special operations officers advance towards the side door.
  • 4. More hostages escape, running to safety on Elizabeth Street.
  • 5. Moments later, commandos storm the cafe via a number of entrances. The remaining hostages escape.
  • 6. Police officially confirm the end of the siege at 02:45 local time. They later report the deaths of three people, including the gunman.

How Sydney cafe siege unfolded

Man Haron Monis: 'Damaged' and 'unstable'

Mr Abbott said Monis had been on a security watch list until 2009.

"I don't know why he dropped off the watch list in those days and that's one of the reasons we need this inquiry," he said.

Mr Abbott added that while Monis had clearly sought to "clothe himself in the symbolism and ideology" of militant Islamist group Islamic State, it was not yet known how much contact he had had with terror networks.

The review will report by January next year, said a press release.

Thousands of people have been paying tribute to the killed hostages, Tori Johnson and Katrina Dawson, at a memorial in Martin Place, and signing books of condolence around the country.

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Image caption Thousands of flowers and other tributes have been left in Martin Place
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Image caption A tribute left by staff at the Lindt Chocolat Cafe for their manager, Tori Johnson
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Image caption Messages have also been written on the pavement around the square

Speaking earlier on Wednesday, Commissioner Scipione said some 70 interviews with witnesses were still to take place, but that he believed the outcome could have been "much, much worse" if police had not moved in when they did.

When asked whether Monis should have been on a terror watch list, Mr Scipione said it was important to remember that none of the charges he faced related to political violence.

"Clearly we work on a priority-based system so if someone is on a national security watch list we watch them but on this particular occasion he was not."

But he said police were "concerned that this man got bail from the very beginning" and had asked the court to refuse the request.

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