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Abbott: Australian Hostage-taker Was Sick, Disturbed


Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has described the hostage-taking at a Sydney cafe as the "sick fantasy of a disturbed individual."

Prime Minister Abbott on Tuesday joined Australians in mourning the victims of the siege, which ended when police conducted a dramatic, early morning raid to free the hostages.

Two hostages and the gunman were killed in the shootout.

After placing flowers at a makeshift memorial, Abbott described the Iranian-born suspect as "deeply disturbed" and said he had a long history of crime, mental instability and involvement in extremism.

"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 said.

Known to authorities

The suspect, identified as 50-year-old Man Haron Monis, was well-known to Australian authorities, but Abbott said the man did not appear to be on a terrorist watch list.

The self-proclaimed Muslim cleric was out on bail after charges related to the 2013 killing of his ex-wife. He had also been found guilty of sending threatening letters to the parents of Australian soldiers who died in Afghanistan.

During the standoff, Monis forced hostages to hold up a flag with an Islamic statement of faith. In statements to media, Monis said he supported the Islamic State group.

Australian officials have stressed Monis does not appear to be connected with any terrorist group. New South Wales police have called the attack an "isolated incident."

Australian Muslims groups released a statement condemning the hostage-taking and Monis' use of the Islamic flag.