After a 16-hour standoff, Australian police free 30 Sydney hostages held by an Islamic extremist at a Lindt Chocolate Cafe located in the Martin Place Plaza. The siege was ended when police stormed the cafe using flash-bang grenades. The hostage taker has been identified as an Iranian-born Muslim cleric named Man Haron Monis, whom had called himself ′Sheikh Haron′. He was well known to police after being arrested for writing offensive letters to the families of Australian soldiers killed while serving in Afghanistan and was sentenced to 300 hours of community service. The 40-year old terrorist was also charged as being an accessory to the murder of his ex-wife and more recently with a sexual assault charge from an attack on a woman back in 2002. Monis was out on bail awaiting trial when he seized hostages at the popular chocolate shop in downtown Sydney.
Police sealed the area off and began negotiations with him. Some 5 hostages were released early on while Monis forced two hostages to hold an Islamic flag, known as the Shahada, with the inscription ″There is no god but God and Muhammad is his messenger″ by the front window, rotating hostages every two hours. Among his demands were to be given a ′genuine′ ISIS flag and to speak directly with Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbot. Monis took over the cafe with a pump-action shotgun and carried a backpack. Rumors, or claims that he may have had an explosive device there, as well as having placed others around downtown Sydney are unconfirmed.
The Sydney hostages were freed and Haron Monis was shot dead. One hostage, a male, was taken to the hospital for a preexisting condition. The Lindt Chocolate Cafe is located in downtown Sydney at the Martin Place Plaza, not far from the Australian Reserve Bank headquarters. Halfway around the world, there was another incident in Ghent, Belgium which initially was thought to be another hostage situation. Police arrested three individuals after laying siege to an apartment building and have ruled out terrorism as a motive. I have to wonder if any protestors in Australia will start chanting to kill cops?