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Sydney café siege hostages pleaded for the sick and elderly among them

After a gunman took 17 hostages at a cafe in Sydney's Martin Place, he held them captive for almost 16 hours and used them to try to make his strange demands through social and mainstream media.

world Updated: Dec 16, 2014 20:50 IST
sydney siege
An-injured-hostage-is-carried-out-of-a-cafe-in-the-central-business-district-of-Sydney-AFP-photo

The Sydney hostages pleaded for help - for those among them who were pregnant, sick and elderly. Also for those who were young and deserved a shot at a decent life.

After a gunman took 17 hostages at a downtown cafe Monday morning, he used them to try to make his strange demands through social and mainstream media: to be delivered a flag of the Islamic State group and to speak directly with Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

Video links were quickly removed from YouTube and other conversations went unpublished by newspapers and radio stations while the drama unfolded, lest they compromise the police response.

The 16-hour siege ended early Tuesday in a barrage of gunfire that left the gunman and two hostages dead. Some of the conversations and videos made by the hostages under duress have now been released.

One hostage called The Daily Telegraph newspaper, identifying her captor, 50-year-old Man Haron Monis, as "the brother."

"The brother has looked after us all; we're very, very tired," she told a reporter at the newspaper. "We've got pregnant ladies in here, and we've got sick and elderly, and we are very, very tired, and some very young staff who deserve to have a decent, normal life at this point, so get us the hell out of here, please."

An injured hostage is carried to an ambulance after police stormed Lindt Cafe at Martin Place in Australia, Tuesday. (AP Photo)

The hostage said the gunman was next to her: "He's sitting right here, I have you on speaker, I can't compromise myself and my fellow hostages," she said, adding that people didn't seem to understand the danger they were facing: "We are not going to walk out of here," she said, later adding, "We just want to get out of here."

In a video message, filmed in front of a black Shahada flag with the Islamic declaration of faith written on it, one hostage said her captor had placed bombs around the city - which turned out to be untrue - and that he couldn't understand why his demands hadn't been met: "He's only asking for a flag and a phone call, and that's it," she said.

Meanwhile, the social media postings of the 50-year-old gunman Man Haron Monis indicate he thought of himself as something of a martyr. The self-styled Muslim cleric, who came to Australia as a refugee from Iran, complained of being tortured in prison for his political beliefs and said he was fighting for Islam and peace.

"The more you fight with crime, the more peaceful you are," he wrote recently on his website, according to the SITE Intelligence Group. In another post, he wrote, "I am one of the witnesses for the barbarism of the Australian government."

Monis was free on bail when he used a shotgun to take 17 hostages at the Lindt Chocolat Cafe Monday morning. He and two hostages died early Tuesday in a barrage of gunfire when police stormed the cafe.

Australian authorities are now facing questions about why he was allowed out of jail given the seriousness of the charges against him, including being an accessory to the murder of his former wife and sexually assaulting a woman in 2002.

"We are all outraged that this guy was on the street," New South Wales Premier Mike Baird said. "We need to ensure that everything is done to learn from this."

Prime Minister Tony Abbott called him a "deluded and sick individual" who was known to police and intelligence agencies, but who was not on a terror watch list.

Video: Sydney gunman had 'infatuation with extremism', says Aussie PM Tony Abbott

Monis grew up in Iran as Mohammad Hassan Manteghi. In 1996, he established a travel agency but took his clients' money and fled, Iran's police chief, Gen. Ismail Ahmadi Moghaddam, told the country's official IRNA news agency.

Australia accepted Monis as a refugee around that time.