back to top

Sydney Gunman Not On Australian "Terror Watch List"

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott told a press conference that even if Man Haron Monis had been on a list, the hostage incident that caused the death of three people including the gunman yesterday could still have taken place.

Posted on

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has admitted the gunman in the fatal siege in Sydney yesterday, Man Haron Monis, was not on the Australian Federal Police’s “terror watch list”.

Getty Images/Daniel Munoz

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott gives a press conference with New South Wales Premier Mike Baird at the Commonwealth Parliamentary Offices on Dec. 16, 2014, in Sydney, Australia.

Monis and two more people — cafe manager Tori Johnson and lawyer Katrina Dawson — died after police stormed the Central Business District's Lindt Chocolate Cafe yesterday, where the gunman had been holding hostages for 16 hours.

Abbott held a Tuesday afternoon press conference conceding that despite the "terror alert level" being set to "High" and the gunman being on bail, Mon Haron Monis wasn't on the AFP's list.

Even though Monis was "well known" to authorities, Abbott said he didn't "believe he was on a terror watch list at this time."

"There was nothing consistent about this individual's life, except that he was consistently weird," he added.

But Abbott — flanked by state and federal policing authorities — insisted that even if Monis had been on such a list, he might not have been picked up by authorities before Monday.

"Even if this individual had been monitored 24 hours a day, it's quite likely, certainly possible, that this incident could have taken place," he said.

Discussing the siege, the prime minister said: "This has been an absolutely appalling and ugly incident, that's the only way to describe it. Our hearts go out to the families of Katrina Dawson and Tori Johnson. It's about as innocent a thing as anyone can do.

"To go and grab a morning coffee before the working day has truly started. Decent innocent people who got caught up in the sick fantasy of a deeply disturbed individual.

"The tragedy of these times is that there are people even in a society such as ours who wish to do us harm. We are not immune to the politically motivated violence which has for so long stalked other countries."

Abbott also played tribute to the New South Wales authorities' handling of the situation: "Everyone has been impressed by the speed of the NSW response, the thoroughness of the preparations they made and the professionalism of the action they took once it became obvious that people inside the cafe were being taken out by this deluded and sick individual.

"I think every Sydneysider can feel quietly proud of the way this city has handled one of the most difficult 36 hours in our history."

New South Wales Premier Mike Baird expressed anger that Monis had been granted bail: "We're all outraged that this was guy was on the street. I'm incredibly upset. I'm outraged!"

Premier Baird also announced he'd be willing to toughen bail laws pending a complete review, and Abbott left the terror alert level set to "High".

Francis Whittaker is a homepage editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Francis Whittaker at

Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.