The suspect at the center of the Sydney hostage drama winding down Tuesday has long been on law enforcement officials’ radar.
Man Haron Monis, an Iranian-born refugee and self-styled sheik, was alleged to have taken at least a dozen people hostage and holding them for nearly 17 hours at the downtown Lindt Chocolate Cafe. Security forces stormed the café just before 3 a.m. local time, and gunfire rang out. Police announced the siege was over.
Police identified the gunman as Monis. He reportedly was among two people killed at the scene.
Officials said Monis had been charged with several counts of sexual assault and found guilty in 2012 of sending offensive and threatening letters to the families of eight Australian soldiers killed overseas, according to Reuters and The Sydney Morning Herald.
The Associated Press reported Monis last year was sentenced to 300 hours of community service in the letters case. He subsequently was charged with being an accessory to his ex-wife’s murder. He also was charged this year with sexually assaulting a woman in 2002 but has been out on bail pending further legal action.
“This is a one-off random individual. It’s not a concerted terrorism event or act. It’s a damaged goods individual who’s done something outrageous,» his former lawyer, Manny Conditsis, told Australian Broadcasting Corp., according to the AP.
Local media reported that Monis was 49 or 50 years old.
Monis, spotted through a window, was wearing a white shirt with a black vest and carrying a weapon.
«We’re possibly looking at a lone wolf who has sympathies to global jihad or someone with mental health issues in search of a cause. This is all about attention,» said Adam Dolnik, a University of Wollongong professor who has trained Sydney police in hostage negotiations, the Reuters news agency reported.