- Politics and Social Issues
Sydney Siege - The Drama
Terror in Sydney
The city was decked with Christmas decorations, but people in the Sydney city, were busily going about their day on 15th December 2014. Those who work in the hub, had their favorite ways of traversing the busy city, often using short cuts through Malls, shops and train stations on foot.
That day Chris Kenny did just that and walked via the Lindt Chocolat Café, a popular coffee place in the heart of the city, right opposite the TV Channel 7 news offices. His eye glanced on a big man dressed in Arabic style garb, sitting near the front window. His mind noted it, but his brain was too busy with other matters to make anything of it.
It was nearly 10 am and the latest news began hitting the airwaves. Those who heard the guarded words found it difficult to comprehend. The word ‘Siege’ was being bandied about. Most shook their head as if to clear the cobwebs from within. This is Sydney, Australia; it could not be.
The scenes witnessed from outside the café soon dispelled any doubts. Two women were holding up a black flag with white Arabic writing against the window of the Café. People stopped to stare. Most could not read the writing and assumed it was an ISIS flag. It turned out to be a “Shahada” flag and nothing to do with that of the Islamic State. In fact, soon the gunman will be demanding an ISIS flag. It seemed he wanted to be recognised as part of that group, and maybe he was – in his own mind.
Where is Martin Place?
The masses of well-padded police that flooded the place shortly, took control of the area. Martin Place buildings were evacuated and the whole area cleared. The public was kept at bay, the train station closed, with no trains stopping there at all. Crowds are pushed further back as the terrifying event unfolded.
The gunman sent a message to say that there are other devices planted around Sydney. Harbour Bridge is an important artery with many lanes of traffic that never seems to thin out, yet it was closed. The police also cordoned off the Opera House. The Supreme Court and the NSW parliament are also nearby, and they too are cleared and closed down. The City ground to a halt as never before, but the police were not taking chances.
The big man sitting by the window – now known to have been Man Haron Monis - had ordered one of the hostages caught in this web of terror to call the 2GB radio and demand to speak with the prime minister on air. The disembodied voice of the captive easily conveyed the message that the fear in that room was thick and palpable. Some of the captives were distraught and wondering why the Prime Minister was not responding, and how would this rebuff affect them? Many people, listening and watching intently from outside, were probably thinking the same, but others felt sure that some negotiations must be going on under wraps.
The tactical police widen the lockdown area and it was rumoured that there could be 40-50 people in the café, some of whom were customers. This was later downgraded to some 30 persons and later still, established as 17. Prime Minister holds a press conference and states that it is still unclear what the motivation for the siege is.
Other Hostages Free.
By the afternoon, 3 hostages are seen running into the arms of the tactical police outside! What did this mean? Did they escape or were they released? The public waited and wondered. They knew that the police must be working behind the scenes, but the situation was tense, dense and frightening. Those now released provided a clearer picture of what it was like for the hostages, but no more demands were made. The gunman wanted to converse with the Prime Minister on air, but nobody knew why.
It later transpired that some hostages negotiated with the gunman to allow them and others go to the bathroom and even to prepare some food from the kitchen. It was said that some of the captives co-operated with each other, some were quietly assessing the situation to see whether they could overpower the gunman, while others were bolstering up those who were immobilised with the fear they were forced to endure. Some others must have been wondering what it would be like to flee or to fight. Each handled the situation in their own way.
Grand Mufti Condemns Siege.
By mid-afternoon there had been no direct communication with the gunman. This did not deter the country’s highest Islamic officer from making a public statement. The Grand Mufti Ibrahim Abu Mohamed, expressed outrage and great sadness at what was happening and specifically condemned the actions of this Muslim gunman.
We will never know how Man Haron Monis felt about this statement, but shortly afterwards two more female hostages ran outside. Inside the building he was still insisting that two hostages hold up that flag against the window, rotating them for two hours at a time at standing and holding up that flag high. Many wondered how long this gunman could keep alert enough to control a whole bunch of people, despite the guns he held. He had no accomplice there, so surely he could not hold out forever. Nine hours would have been wearying enough, surely. We later on found out that some hostages were also considering the same train of thought. But of course it is not easy to assess the likelihood of success and the result of failing to incapacitate him could have been disastrous for some. Two kitchen boys had picked up small knives as they filed out of the kitchen, but they wisely hesitated as these might turn out to be ineffective against the guns he held pointing at them.
Were They Released or Had They Escaped?
The building was surrounded by tactical highly armed personnel, but the gunman could easily shoot captives if he suspected an attack. The police had entered the building but were reluctant to hurry things up, preferring to put priority on the safety of the captives.
It was not until the [next] early morning hours that a man ran out, and minutes later four captives also appeared just outside the building. Were they released or did they escape?
Shortly after that, rapid gunfire shattered the night air, then a second volley of shots added to the confusion as police and paramedics stormed the hostage site.
By 2.45am on 16th December, the gunman was dead and the siege was over. Three people lay dead and another four were injured.
Tori Johnson Loving and Courageous.
It was reported later that Man Haron Monis had brutally executed the much loved Tori Johnson, the 34 year old Manager of the Café. He had demanded that Tori kneel and he coldly shot him at the back of the head. That shooting is what prompted the police to make a move. In the melee’ that followed some were injured, and worse still, one was fatally wounded. This was a high flying barrister of 38 years, Katrina Dawson, mother of 3 children who copped a ricocheting bullet.
Katrina Dawson Protective of Others.
It all ended as abruptly as it had started. For a few hours the news was confusing, but it was clear that two perfectly innocent people lay dead. For the rest of the captives, who survived, who knows how long the nightmares will remain with them? There were those that froze, others stayed cool and in control, those that wanted to fight the man, and others who hoped and prayed that the gunman will disintegrate and disappear. All had to deal with the fear, the tiredness and the reality of their predicament.
Martin Place is a big place and regarded as the hub by those walking around the city. It is where everyone meets, especially at lunchtime, to eat, to chat and to watch the free shows. There was not an inch left uncovered after the siege. It was a sea of flowers of all types and colors. It is amazing that there were that many flowers to be bought at all.
Outpouring of Grief.
They were placed there, by young and old, people of all colors and creeds, all broken hearted about the needless deaths of two fine young people.
Image 1 Jieun Bae is Free. Reuters: Jason Reed
Image 2 Hostages holding up Flag http://s1.hubimg.com/u/12314160_f248.jpg
Image 3 Map of the City Centre. On the Tele- http://Yeeyi.com
Image 4 Shahada Flag . . . .Private Collection.
Image 5 Two More Hostages Free! http://s2.hubimg.com/u/12314315_f520.jpg
Image 6 Tori Johnson, Café Manager http://www.smh.com.au/content/dam/images
Image 7 Katrina Dawson, Barrister http://www.smh.com.au/content/dam/images
© 2015 Marie L B