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Australia Pays Tribute to Victims of Cafe Siege

  • Phil Mercer

Australian officials and members of the public are paying tribute to the victims of a deadly siege in Sydney, during which a lone gunmen held 17 people hostage at a downtown café.

A man and a woman were killed, along with the armed Iranian refugee, during the late night clash.

Australia Prime Minister Tony Abbott joined throngs of mourners Tuesday, laying flowers at a makeshift memorial in Sydney to the victims of Monday's cafe siege. The siege ended when police conducted a dramatic, early morning raid to free the hostages.

Two hostages and the gunman were killed in the shootout.

Abbott stood in silence with his wife, Margaret, before the mass of flowers and then went on to sign a book of condolence.

He described Iranian-born suspect Man Haron Monis as "deeply disturbed" and said he had a long history of crime, mental instability and involvement in extremism. He added the 50 year old Iranian refugee did not appear to be on a terrorist watch list.

“The tragedy of these times is that there are people, even in a society such as ours, who wish to do us harm. We are not immune to the politically motivated violence which has for so long stalked other countries," Abbott said.

"But over the last 36 hours we have responded to this in character with grit, with stoicism, with equanimity and I am absolutely confident that whatever happens in the days and weeks and months to come, Australia will always be a free and open and generous society,” he added.

Monday's stand-off lasted more than 16 hours before Australian commandos stormed the building after gunshots were reportedly heard from inside the cafe.

The New South Wales police commissioner Andrew Scipione said the rescue team acted properly and saved lives.

“While everyone might now second-guess as to what has actually occurred in the last hours, well, they are the ones who had to make the decision," Scipione said.

"Our police had to actually deal with this incident. It was tough, exacting work, many hours, whether they were on a point or whether they were part of a team that had to make that entry and deal with this situation. I want to point out, they have saved lives, they have saved many lives,” he said.

While Monis' motivations remain unclear, Australian police said they believe he was acting alone and was not part of a broader Islamist plot.

Muslim groups here have moved quickly to distance themselves from the hostage-taker, stressing that they share the shock and horror felt across Australia.

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