15th December seemed a normal day as others with around 17 people at the cafe at 9: 30 am. They were having coffee and breakfast and chattering when a bearded 50-year old man with a backpack (weapon inside it) entered through the cafe's automatic sliding doors around at 9: 45 am. He disabled the Automatic Glass Doors so that no one can enter or escape. Suddenly he asked all the people at cafe-customers and cafe staff to get on the floor. At that time a women who tried to get in the cafe saw all this perceiving it as an armed robbery, and called police. After a minute a staff member who arrived for his shift watched what was happening through the glass doors. A woman was pressed against the glass, holding a black flag in which “There is no God but Allah. And Muhammad is his messenger” was written in Arabic. That bearded man was Haron Moins.
The cafe is located directly across from the Seven News Television studios. It was one of the many buildings which were evacuated that day, but the Channel Seven had kept their cameras kept running on the action. These cameras captured the startling and terror-filled images of the hostages; the palms of their hands pressed against the glass were witnessed by the whole world on the television and Internet.
After the Siege began, a staged exclusion zone was established and people from the nearby buildings and places were removed.
Not only Channel Seven was in the vicinity of the Lindt Cafe, but there is Reserve Bank of Australia, Headquarters of Commonwealth Bank, Westpac Bank, US consulate General and Martin Place Underground Train Station. All these places were evacuated by the forces as well by 10: 30 am. Trains did not stop at Martin Place Railway Station.
Even the Sydney Opera House was evacuated for some safety reasons and all the shows for two days were canceled. Apart from that, State Library, David Jones Store, New South Wales Parliament's Executive Offices, Criminal Courts for the Supreme Court, the Downing Centre and other important places were places were evacuated as well.
Police asked the people of Hunter, George, Elizabeth and Macquarie Streets to remain indoors as these streets are near to the martin place.
All the traffic accessing to Cahill Expressway, York Street and Harbour Street was diverted to the Sydney Harbour Tunnel.
Inside the cafe Moins tried to contact and inform his demands to Officials trough the hostages. He forced all the hostages to inform the media people to let the world know and broadcast that Australia was under the attack of an Islamic State. His other demand was to have a conversation with Australian President Tony Abbott via live web or any other means. And the last one demand was of IS flag.
Terrified Hostages were forced at gunpoint to convey his demands via social media and videos shot in their own phones and uploaded them on YouTube in which he was always standing behind the Islamic Black Flag. Hostages mentioned him as “Brother” in the videos.
He even tried to misguide the officials by conveying the message that he has two bombs with him and two bombs in the city, but soon it was found out it was nothing but the empty threat. He wanted everyone to interpret that he was working with some group or backed by some group, but obviously it was not the case.
YouTube removed these videos over and over on request of Police of Australia but on other hand new videos were being uploaded continuously. There was a storm of messages in Facebook accounts of hostages to fulfill “Brother's” small demand and get them out. The intensity of fear and anxiousness made hair stand on end of all who read their messages and pleas.
During these 17-hour traumatic ordeal police was continuously negotiating with the gunman.
At around 3: 37 pm, two hostages-83 year old John O'Brian with Barrister Stefen Balafoutis escaped from the front entrance of the building and after a minute third hostage-employee of the cafe ran out from a fire exit at the side of the building.
At around 4: 58 pm, two more female hostages-Bae Jie-un and Elly Chen both employees at the cafe escaped by running from another entrance of the building. Ms. Bae Jie-un was in tears when she ran toward the police who were waiting for them. Elly Chen ran for her life and freedom still wearing her apron.
From their statements, it was confirmed that the gunman was acting alone and on his own which was critical information for NSW police to take action.
One of the hostages stated in a video that, after these escapes he had threatened to kill someone if someone runs, “an eye for an eye”
It was around 2: 00 am on 16th December when the police outside heard “a very loud bang” possibly a gunshot and following that several more hostages around six people fled from the cafe. Again at around 2: 14 am same noise was heard and police acted immediately. They thought if they won't enter immediately then many more lives have been lost. The heavily armed Australian police charged into the cafe and in a few minutes'fighting and firing, they were able to free all the hostages. The Gunman was shot dead who kept everyone on the edge for 17 long hours. At 2: 45 am, police declared that the siege was over:
But this victory came with its price; two hostages-A man aged 34 Tori Johnson and a 38-year-old woman barrister Katrina Dawson were also shot and declared dead after reaching the hospital. Apart from them, three women suffered gunshot wounds-a 75-year-old who was hit in the shoulder, a 52-year-old in the foot and a 43-year-old in the leg and a police officer was injured by gunshot pellets to his face. There were two pregnant women too who were hostages and had to go through the trauma.
Tori Johnson's and Katrina Dawson's families were the one who lost their family member. It is said that it was Tori Johnson, the cafe manager who got into physical fight with the Gunman Haron Monis to wrestle a gun from him which gave the others chance to run at the cost of his life.
The barrister Katrina Dawson was trying to protect her pregnant lady colleague, Julie Taylor when she was fatally shot. She was a mother of three children aged eight, five and three. She went to cafe to have coffee with her two colleagues-Julie Taylor and Stefan Balafoutis-who already escaped before:
The service for Mr. Johnson took place at St. Stephen's Uniting Church only a few meters away from where the siege took place. Several dignitaries attended Mr Johnson's service, including Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione, NSW Premier Mike Baird, Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore and Federal government minister Malcolm Turnbull. Friends of Mr Johnson described him as “a loving, placid and very gentle soul … a true gentleman” A private funeral was held for Katrina Dawson. “My Mummy is in Heaven and heaven is in my heart so mummy will be with me all the time” are the words of her son Ollie. More than 1000 people attended the memorial service at the Sydney University.
The immense floral tribute to Johnson and his fellow victim, barrister Katrina Dawson, was cleared by volunteer workers, and other was set up at the marquee near the Lindt Cafe.
The area near the cafe was cordoned off, with bystanders and the passing office workers left flowers under the Police tape. Not only the survivors of the siege and family of victims but all the people who might have been place of their friends and colleagues laid flowers at a marquee near the Lindt Cafe following the Funeral. Notes, Flowers, Cards from all walks of life continued to flow into Martin Place. Everyone who passed by had tears in their eyes. From the First bunch of lilies the whole Martine place and tribute turned into “a field of flowers” Everyone could smell before they saw it. These flowers were the symbols of the respect and sympathy as well as the fury, confusion and outpouring grief of millions.
Even the Prime Minister Tony Abbott along with his wife Margie laid down flowers and paid respect at the memorial. Flags of all NSW government buildings flew ate half-mast to honour the brave hostages who lost their lives ate the cafe.
The Social Media was overflowed with the messages of sympathy and RIP. It wasn't just the Australia who mourned, but the all the countries witnessed and suffered with them too. Because Feelings and Humanity are not subjective to the nationality.
A huge carpet of thousands of bouquets of flowers in Martin Place was removed later on Tuesday after consulting the families of Johnson and Dawson as thunderstorms threatened to drench the city. Volunteers from the Rural Fire Service, the State Emergency Service and the Red Cross did this cleaning work. The Notes and Cards were given to the families and the flowers were crushed into mulch and scattered at a site to be determined.
The Man who was the responsible for everyone's fear, trauma, confusion, suffering, death, fury and grief was a Sheikh Haron Monis. Police described him as a self-styled preacher of Islamic State.
Monis was born in Iran but moved to Australia in 1996 and was reportedly granted political asylum in 2001.
It was 2010, when he first faced charges for sending grossly offensive letters between 2007 and 2009 to the families of two Australian soldiers who died in Afghanistan-and the family of a trade official, who died in the 2009 Jakarta bombing. As a result, he was convicted of 12 counts of using a postal service to cause offence, ordered to perform 300 hours of community service and placed on a two-year good behaviour bond. Monis was banned from sending similar letters to the relatives of British soldiers, but claimed in court at the time the condition was a breach of his freedom of speech. Monis was also accused of being an accessory to his ex-wife's murder and was facing charges on 40 offences relating to the indecent and sexual assault of several women in 2002. It is alleged that Monis placed ads in local newspapers offering “spiritual consultation” He claimed to be an expert in astrology, numerology, meditation and black magic. Surprisingly, after all these he was granted bail and was set to reappear in court in February 2015.
Even PM Tony Abbott was surprised that a man with such a long and checkered criminal record was granted a bail and was roaming around freely without being watched. It was found out too. It was NSW state opposition leader John Robertson who signed a letter to support Monis gaining access to his children in a dispute with his second wife, for this he had to resign under the pressure.
An investigation has been launched into the police operation. The full details of what happened at the Lindt Cafe during the siege are still unknown as police are investigating and all the victims are keeping mum, following the police's orders. Police are also investigating the motives of Monis-an Iranian refugee who faced multiple criminal charges-and how he got a gun. The Sydney Siege was the rise of new form of Extremism. It is a possibility that a ‘siege’ would have taken place even if Monis would have been put in the watch list.
PM Tony Abbott has realized that “Terrorist & Terror Chatter” has increased after the Sydney Siege. The additional security measures are taken by Australian Government after this, they are more alert and careful because now they know the world in which they live is not as peaceful as their country is. Apart from that Christmas was also on the radar for which they appointed additional police force.
It is still a mystery why Monis poured out his anger and outrage on innocent people, what was the need to go such extremes. No one knows how many Haron Monis live in the Australia or in the other parts of world. Now-a-days, Peace is an expensive as well as a rare quality of society.
Author: Jinal Rohit