Iran tried to distance itself from the Iranian cleric who took over a cafe in Sydney, saying Man Haran Monis’ actions had nothing to do with Islam.
The 49-year-old, who called himself Sheikh Haron, was killed when police stormed the Lindt cafe after a 16-hour standoff. Australian authorities said they were forced to move in when they heard shots being fired inside the chocolate shop.
Monis was killed. Two hostages were killed, and a police officer was shot in the face yet is expected to survive.
The Iranian sought political asylum in Australia in 1996.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Marziyeh Afkham expressed alarm about “unclear and imperfect news about the Iranian refugee,” according to the official Islamic Republic News Agency, which didn’t carry the story of the shooting until the government had something to say.
IRNA said the “psychological conditions of the person, who took refuge in Australia two decades ago, had been discussed several times with the Australian officials.”
Iran’s state-owned Press TV said Afkham “emphasized on Monday that recourse to inhuman methods and terrorism has nothing to do with the divine religion of Islam.”
“She noted that the Australian police have been totally abreast of psychological conditions of the hostage taker, who had immigrated to Australia about two decades ago.”
Iran further tried to tie him to ISIS, noting that “the hostage taker had described Iran and the supporters of the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as terrorists.” Monis was wearing a Shiite headband when he took over the cafe, yet reportedly asked for an ISIS flag during negotiations.
“Some blame the incident on those who support terrorism, including the United States, Israel, and certain regimes in the Middle East region that support such Takfiri groups as al-Nusra Front and ISIL,” Press TV reported.
The semi-official Fars News Agency ran with the headline: “Sydney Hostage-Taker Says He is ISIL Member.” Fars said the generic jihadi flag being waved by Monis was that of al-Nusra.
“The formerly Shiite Muslim underlines that he has converted to Sunni Islam, stressing that Shiites are blasphemous people,” read the Fars story. “He also underscores that the war in Iraq is not a sectarian strife, but a war between the Muslims (i.e. ISIL) and the hypocrites.”
After immigrating to Australia, Monis went to court over hateful letters written to the families of soldiers killed in Afghanistan. He was out on bail on charges of being accessory to the murder of his ex-wife, and subsequently faced more than 50 charges of indecent acts and sexual assault related to his “spiritual healer” practice.
On his website, Monis posted a statement dated December 2014, “I used to be a Rafidi, but not anymore. Now I am a Muslim, Alhamdu Lillah.”
“Islam is the religion of peace, that’s why Muslims fight against the oppression and terrorism of USA and its allies including UK and Australia. If we stay silent towards the criminals we cannot have a peaceful society,” he said in a statement dated Dec. 14. “The more you fight with crime, the more peaceful you are. Islam wants peace on the Earth, that’s why Muslims want to stop terrorism of America and its allies. When you speak out against crime you have taken one step towards peace.”