The pop of gunfire and smoke grenades Monday morning signified a dramatic turn in a standoff at a Sydney cafe.
A half dozen hostages ran out with their arms in the air from the café located in the heart of Sydney’s normally crowded business district. Heavily armed police officers swarmed the building.
One female hostage was helped away, while another, who was bloody and crying, had to be carried to safety.
Rescuers could be seen performing CPR on one person lying on the ground. Two others were wheeled out on stretchers, as a medic performed compressions.
“Events that were unfolding inside let them know it was time to deploy,” said New South Wales Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione.
This dramatic rescue ended a tense standoff that started Sunday night at the Lindt chocolate café. The lone gunman took control with 17 hostages.
During the standoff workers could be seen standing in the café windows, hands pressed to the glass. Other times, holding up a black Islamic flag that read in Arabic, "There is no God but Allah; Muhammad is the messenger of Allah."
“It’s got the same verbiage that ISIS has on its flag,” said Khalil Marrar, Professor Middle East Politics at Governors State University. “The only difference is it looks like a Saudi flag against a black drab. It’s not exactly the ISIS flag but definitely conveys the same message that Muslim Fundamentalists would want to convey.”
The 50-year-old gunman has been identified as Man Haron Monis, who is also known as Sheikh Haron. According to his website, he is a Muslim cleric and self-described peace activist. A YouTube video shows Monis staging a one-man protest.
Monis has a lengthy criminal record including being an accessory to the murder of his ex-wife, who was repeatedly stabbed and set on fire. He was released on bail.
Earlier this year Monis was charged with multiple sexual offenses dating back to 2002.
“We should view this as something that is conveying a political act,” said Marrar. “The reason is he’s literally wearing his religion on his sleeve, or in this case putting it in the store window. Because he’s doing that it’s a political act.”
Monis received political asylum in Australia in 1996 when he emigrated from Iran.