The hostage saga in Sydney ended in dramatic fashion yesterday as Australian police and SWAT teams stormed a downtown café after a 16-hour standoff with armed hostage taker, Man Haron Monis. Monis, identified as a Muslim cleric with a criminal record that included sexual assault and accessory to murder, was killed during the operation as were two hostages, identified as a male and female in their 30s.
Monis, an Iranian national, requested refugee status and asylum in Australia in 1996 and sought to repay Australia's benevolence by engaging in a vituperative letter-writing campaign directed at the families of fallen Australian soldiers who served in Afghanistan. The letters, in which Monis expresses opposition to the war in Afghanistan, refers to the fallen soldiers as "pigs" and compares them to Hitler. Australian authorities charged him with "using a postal or similar service to menace, harass or cause offense [sic]" for which he received a relatively mild sentence of 300 hours of community service.