by Brandon Musick
When one thinks of Australia, thoughts of kangaroos, koala bears, crocodiles, and heavy accents often pop into the mind. Australia is known to be a quite peaceful country with very little violence, and the last thing to be expected in the country would be a terrorist attack. So there’s very little chance that a sort of terrorism occurred in Australia, right? ….Right?
Well as shocking as it may sound, Sydney, the capital city of Australia, was not so much attacked as surprised at events that unfolded at a local mall on Monday and Tuesday this week.
On Monday morning, a group of people were seen in the window of a Lindt Café store holding up a black and white flag. On the flag was what is believed to have been the shahada, or Muslim testimony of faith, written in Arabic. The flag has been seen before, commonly flown by Islamic terrorist groups, which sparked fear that this may have been an actual act of terrorism by a group. However, officials have not declared the event a terrorist attack, and one official described it as an “isolated incident.”
In the Lindt Café, a man had taken over a dozen people hostage, which lead to a 16-hour police standoff. After waiting for hours and seeing five of the hostages escape, the police made a decision to storm the café. In the ensuing chaos, the gunman was eventually killed. Two hostages were killed, and six were uninjured. It is unclear how the two hostages died, and according to the Associated Press, police would not answer if the hostages were killed by the gunman or in the crossfire when the police raided the café. The raid became mad chaos, with hostages fleeing the scene, and an officer carrying out at least one injured hostage.
The culprit? An Iranian man and “self-described cleric” named Man Haron Monis, who has “been on authorities radar in the past” (TIME).
According to TIME, “Australia’s paramount figure on Islamic law, the Grand Mufti Ibrahim Abu Mohamed, issued a statement ‘unequivocally’ condemning the action. He said the Muslim community was ‘devastated’ by the incident and said such actions are ‘denounced in part and in whole in Islam.'”
Earlier this year (September 21 to be exact), forces affiliated with ISIS released an audio recording calling for all followers to attack the non-Muslim population in Australia. According to Clark Jones, a terrorism expert at the Australian National University’s College of Asia and the Pacific, officials believe there are approximately 60 Australian residents are fighting in “jihadist ranks in the Middle East,” with many believed to have already returned to Australia (TIME).