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Abbott Vows Probe Into Sydney Cafe Siege

  • Phil Mercer

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and his wife Margie prepare to place floral tributes near the cafe in central Sydney, December 16, 2014, where hostages were held for over 16-hours.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and his wife Margie prepare to place floral tributes near the cafe in central Sydney, December 16, 2014, where hostages were held for over 16-hours.

Australia has ordered an urgent review into the deadly cafe siege in Sydney. Prime Minister Tony Abbott says lessons must be learned from what he described as “a horrible outrage” that claimed the lives of two hostages, and shocked an entire nation.

Prime Minister Abbott says there will be an urgent review into how a deranged Iranian-born man with a history of violence and extremism was allowed to carry out this week's deadly cafe attack in Sydney.

Man Haron Monis was a 50-year old Iranian who was granted asylum in Australia. He had a long criminal history, and had been freed on bail after being charged as an accessory to the murder of his ex-wife. He also faced more than 40 sexual assault and indecency charges.

But despite an apparent obsession with extremism, he was not under surveillance.

Abbott says a full investigation into his background is needed.

“We do need to know why the perpetrator of this horrible outrage got permanent residency," he said. "We do need to know what this individual was doing with a gun license. We particularly need to know how someone with such a long record of violence, such a long record of mental instability, was out on bail after his involvement in a particularly horrific crime. And we do need to know why he seems to have fallen off our security agencies’ watch list back in about 2009.”

New South Wales police commissioner Andrew Scipione on Wednesday said he was concerned "from the very beginning" that Monis got bail. But he said Monis did not appear on any security watch list because none of his charges were politically motivated.

Monis fled to Australia two decades ago claiming persecution in Iran. He has been referred to in the media as a "self-styled" Islamic cleric, in reference to the non-Islamic practices in which he claimed expertise, including astrology, numerology, and black magic.

The suspected gunman also appeared to be a supporter of the Islamic State group. During the 16-hour siege, Monis made hostages hold up a black flag with an Islamic statement of faith. He also demanded authorities give him an Islamic State flag.

But officials are skeptical that Monis had any links to the Islamist extremist group, saying the attack appears to have been an isolated incident. The Islamic State has repeatedly threatened attacks against Western countries, including Australia, for their air campaign to rid its fighters from strongholds in Iraq and Syria.

Australia, which is part of the U.S.-led military campaign against Islamic State militants in Iraq, is increasingly anxious about homegrown extremism. The hostage crisis has made a nervous country even more fearful.

Earlier this year Canberra raised its domestic terror threat level from medium to high.

Dozens of young Australians are thought to have left the country to fight for radical groups in the Middle East.

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