NEW DELHI: Heavily armed police moved into Lindt cafe in Sydney’s business district, bringing to an end a hostage crisis that stretched for over 16 hours. Three people, including the armed hostage taker, were killed in the final round of firing.

"Early this morning the Martin Place siege ended with the death of the lone gunman and, tragically, the loss of two hostages, innocent Australians caught up in the horror of yesterday (Monday)," Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said. "Five other people, four hostages and a NSW police officer, were injured. State and Commonwealth agencies are investigating. "Understandably, there is lot of speculation, but it will take time to clarify exactly what happened in Martin Place and why".

There were 17 hostages in total, five of whom had escaped eight-nine hours into the siege. The hostage-taker was identified as Man Haron Monis, an Iranian refugee with a criminal past.

Abbott, speaking hours after the siege ended, referred to the incident as “disturbing.” Calling it a “brush with terrorism,” Abbott said that the gunman “had a long history of violent crime, infatuation with extremism and mental instability… As the siege unfolded ... he sought to cloak his actions with the symbolism of the ISIL death cult.”

Although the hostage crisis comes after Australia joined the US-led coalition against the Islamic State, the gunman seems to have no political links to any organised group and seemed to be acting in isolation.

Nonetheless, Man Haron Monis, also known as Mohammad Hassan Manteghi, had a controversial rap sheet, although his activities had not landed him on Australia’s terror watch list -- a matter that would be the subject of questioning going forward, according to Abbott.

Who was Monis?

Monis, originally from Iran, was granted political asylum in 1996. A self-styled sheikh and cleric, and a former lawyer, Monis was active on the internet, maintaining a YouTube account, a Facebook page, a website and a Wikipedia page that he created and edited. He was engaged in a legal battle over letter that he sent between 2007 and 2009 to the families of soldiers killed in Afghanistan. He pled guilty to harassment charges and served 300 hours of community service. His girlfriend at one time, Amirah Droudis, was charged with the murder of his ex-wife, Noleen Hayson Pal. Monis was charged with being an accessory before and after the crime. He was also facing charges of sexual assault.

On YouTube, he uploaded three videos of himself standing in chains on a crowded street and holding a sign that read “I have been tortured in prison for my political letters.”

Monis’ Facebook page (with a reported 14,725 likes) and his website ( are both unavailable. His Wikipedia page said that he had been exiled from Iran for his “liberal brand of Islam.” The page was vandalised several times, as Monis continued to maintain and edit it.

The letter that he sent to the families of soldiers killed in the Afghan war described the deceased as dirty, contaminated, child-killers, comparing them to pigs and even Hitler. After pleading guilty to harassment charges and serving community service in 2013, Monis, last Friday, failed to Australia’s High Court overturn the charges on free speech grounds.

According to The Daily Dot, Monis was charged with being an accessory before and after the violent death of his ex-wife, Pal, who had been stabbed 18 times. Droudis, who in addition to being Monis’ girlfriend at one time was also his assistant in sending the offensive Afghanistan letters, was in November 2013 charged with the murder of Pal.

Also according to The Daily Dot, “after an arrest in April for a sexual assault 12 years prior, a sex crimes squad hit Monis with dozens of similar charges dating back to 2000–2002, when he was presenting himself as a spiritual healer with a working knowledge of black magic, astrology, and other dubious disciplines, and running a small consultancy whose vulnerable customers allegedly became his victims: more than 40 have come forward in the last few months.”

The Sydney cafe siege -- which took place whilst Monis was out on bail for the murder of his ex-wife -- began at about 9:45 am Monday. Early images showed hostages forced to hold a black flag against the window. The flag bore the Islamic creed, raising suspicion that the attack was a terrorist attack. According to reports, the flag appeared to bear the Shahada, an Islamic affirmation of the oneness of God that reads: “There is no god but the God, Muhammad is the messenger of God.”

Although the motive behind the attack and its link to any organised outfit remain unknown, leading Islamic figures have issued condemnations. Australia’s grand mufti, Dr Ibrahim Abu Mohammad, said he was “devastated” by the news. “The grand mufti and the Australian National Imam Council condemn this criminal act unequivocally and reiterate that such actions are denounced in part and in whole in Islam… We, along with the wide Australian society, await the results of the investigation about the identity of the perpetrators and their underlying motivations behind this criminal act,” a statement said.