Sydney: An Iranian refugee, the Sydney gunman has been identified as a self-styled sheikh named Man Haron Monis.
He was known to the Australian police for some time and was found guilty in 2012 of sending offensive and threatening letters to families of eight Australian soldiers killed in Afghanistan, as a protest against Australia’s involvement in the conflict.
Monis’s website shows graphic images of children that the website says were killed by US and Australian airstrikes in Afghanistan.
He was also out on bail for more than 40 sexual offences. He would allegedly lure women to his clinic with claims that he was as an expert in astrology, meditation and black magic. He also claimed that groping was the key to his practice of ‘spiritual healing’. Sheik Haron, as he was known, was charged last year with being an accessory to the murder of his ex-wife who was stabbed and set alight in a Sydney apartment block.
The police are now investigating the Iranian links of Monis who had demanded that officers bring him the black flag of the Islamic State. While he was widely known as a practicing Shia Muslim, Monis is believed to have converted to Sunni Islam just last month when he posted a message on his now-suspended website rejecting Shiism and pledging allegiance to the Islamic State’s terrorist leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
Experts see it as a lone wolf attack and not a concerted terrorism event or act.
Monis recently likened himself on his own webpage to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, claiming that the recent charges against him have been laid for “political reasons”.
Twitter users voice Support for Muslims
Hours after the Lindt Cafe hostage crisis in Sydney began to unfold, Australians swamped social media with sentiments of solidarity and support of Muslims in the community, media reports said. Twitter user Sir Tessa began what has become a worldwide phenomenon, offering to sit next to members of the Islamic faith on transport if they were frightened to be seen in public wearing religious clothing. The ‘I’ll ride with you’ hashtag garnered over 112,000 mentions across social media, with people all over the world jumping on board the movement in an effort to turn the terrifying events of Monday into something positive. The hashtag was soon picked up by his followers, gaining support from fellow Australians who offered lifts to work, promises of protection, and friendship to anyone feeling threatened.