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Aussie leader: Siege gunman dropped off watch list

Published:Wednesday | December 17, 2014 | 12:35 PM
In this April 18, 2011 file photo of Man Haron Monis, believed to be the gunman inside the Lindt Cafe in Martin Place, speaks to the media as he leaves the Downing Centre in Sydney after a pre-trial hearing where he is accused of sending offending letters to the families of soldiers killed in Afghanistan.

Aussie leader: Siege gunman dropped off watch list

Ap

AUSTRALIA

SYDNEY, (AP):

The gunman responsible for a deadly siege in a Sydney cafe was once on the national security agency's watch list, but was dropped off it years ago for reasons that remain unclear, Australia's prime minister said yesterday.

Man Haron Monis, a 50-year-old Iranian-born, self-styled cleric described by Prime Minister Tony Abbott as deeply disturbed, took 17 people hostage inside a downtown Sydney cafe on Monday. Sixteen hours later, the siege ended in a barrage of gunfire when police rushed in to free the captives. Two hostages were killed along with Monis.

Abbott said Monis was on the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation's watch list in 2008 and 2009, but was later dropped from it. The agency was watching Monis because he had sent a series of offensive letters to the families of dead Australian soldiers, Abbott said.

"I don't know why he dropped off the watch list in those days, I really don't," Abbott told reporters.

Monis was convicted and sentenced last year to 300 hours of community service for sending what a judge called "grossly offensive" letters to families of soldiers killed in Afghanistan between 2007 and 2009. He later was charged with being an accessory to the murder of his ex-wife. Earlier this year, he was charged in the 2002 sexual assault of a woman. He had been out on bail on all the charges.