Sydney hostage crisis – December 15, 2014

The 2014 Sydney hostage crisis occurred when a lone gunman, Man Haron Monis, held hostage ten customers and eight employees of a Lindt chocolate café.

Some terrorists seem to make up their ideologies as they go along and not amount to much.

I imagine a fair number of my readers go to a cafe every morning to get your coffee and treat (muffin, breakfast sandwich, etc.). This is a fairly normal activity no? I’d assume that when you do this the last thing on your mind is having your routine interrupted by a terrorist attack.

2014 Sydney hostage crisis

For some unlucky Australians on this day in 2014 that is exactly what happened. An immigrant from Iran, Man Haron Monis, took 18 people hostage in the Lindt Café in Sydney and announced that Australia was ‘under attack by the Islamic State’. Police arrived and a siege ensued. In the end Monis killed one hostage, one was killed by an errant police bullet, and Monis himself was shot dead. The whole affair lasted 16 hours.

Afterwards a wide-ranging debate broke out in Australia as to whether this was an actual terrorist incident. Some cited Monis’ mental state and said no. Others pointed to statements he made and his request for an Islamic State (ISIS) flag as clear signs that it was. For the record the coroner of record did rule it was a terrorist act.

What we learned afterwards

What I find of interest, however, is what we learned afterwards about the perpetrator and what it says about terrorism. He may have indeed suffered from some form of mental distress but there is a lot about him that is, well, down right bizarre. At various times in his life he claimed that he was:

  • an Iranian intelligence official;
  • a political activist;
  • a spiritual healer and expert in black magic;
  • an outlaw biker;
  • a Muslim cleric; and
  • a “spiritual healer” who told some women that they needed to submit to sexual molestation to receive treatment.
40 counts of sexual assault

He also was charged with being an accessory to the murder of his ex-wife, as well as over 40 counts of sexual assault, and converted from Shia to Sunni Islam (he had emigrated to Australia from Iran, which is a predominantly Shia country).

When it came to his attack on the cafe it too unfolded in a weird way. Monis claimed to have placed four explosive devices around Sydney: none were ever found. A few hostages were ordered to put a black flag with the Shahada in Arabic (the Muslim statement of faith) on it in the front window: it was mistakenly interpreted by some as the ISIS banner (it was not). He demanded that an ISIS flag be delivered to the cafe (it was not). He demanded to speak to Australian PM Tony Abbott (the did not agree to the request).

In the end, Monis died without having achieved much

He became a footnote in history, forgotten and dismissed. If he was a terrorist, and I agree with coroner on this, he was not a very good one. It is helpful to remember this. Very few terrorists are superheroes deserving our awe. Most are losers who deserve our scorn (and NOT our sympathy).

Had I not elected to feature Monis in today’s blog I am sure no one would have noticed. That is how little his impact was.

By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

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