The two hostages who were killed in a siege at a cafe in central Sydney have been hailed as heroes in a church service to mourn their deaths. Reports have emerged that both victims died trying to save others.
In a prayer service at Sydney's St Mary's Cathedral on Tuesday, Archbishop Anthony Fisher lamented that the "heart of our city is broken by the deaths of two innocents," but hailed the heroism of the two deceased.
Police are investigating whether the two hostages died at the hands of the gunman, or in the crossfire. The dead were named as Tori Johnson, the 34-year-old manager of the Lindt chocolate café, and 38-year-old barrister Katrina Dawson, a mother of three children.
"Reports have emerged this morning of the heroism of the male victim of this siege," said Archbishop Fisher. "Apparently seeing an opportunity Tori Johnson grabbed the gun - tragically it went off killing him. But it triggered the response of the police and eventual freedom for most of the hostages."
"Reports have also emerged that Katrina Dawson was shielding her pregnant friend from gunfire. These heroes were willing to lay down their lives so others might live."
Police officers stormed the central Sydney Lindt chocolate cafe after six hostages ran from the premises in Martin Place at about 2.10 a.m. local time Tuesday (1510 UTC Monday). Officers rushed the building - tossing stun grenades - immediately after shots were heard.
Floral tributes built up outside the cafe on Tuesday. The location of the attack - in the center of Australia's most populous city - made it especially shocking, ABC NewsRadio presenter Steve Chase told DW.
"I think there's a lot of indignation in people who work in that area and indeed in a lot of people who don't. I think they're offended that this could happen in the heart of their city, which is generally peaceful," said Chase, adding that much remained unclear about what had happened.
"We don't know the circumstances of exactly how they died but reports are emerging now that the manager was the one who grappled with the gunman and whether he lost his life then and there, or how the woman lost her life is all subject to a police investigation."
The siege began at about 9.45 a.m. on Monday. Footage showed the man inside the coffee shop with a beard and sporting a bandana that carried writing in Arabic. He appeared to be holding a sawn-off shotgun. Hostages were made to stand at windows, with an Islamic flag at one point held being against the glass.
'Demand to talk to PM'
During the siege, videos showing hostages making demands on behalf of the gunman appeared online. Perpetrator Man Haran Monis, whom hostages referred to as "brother," demanded to talk to Prime Minister Abbott, the delivery of an "Islamic State" (IS) flag, and for the media to broadcast that Australia was under attack by IS.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the gunman responsible had been infatuated with Islamist extremism and was known to security services.
Police officers stormed the central Sydney Lindt chocolate cafe after six hostages ran from the premises in Martin Place at about 2.10 a.m. local time Tuesday (1510 UTC Monday). Officers rushed the building - tossing stun grenades - after shots were heard.
Although Monis appeared to have been keen to link himself with the wider Islamist world, including the "Islamic State" militant group, there were little to suggest any real connection.
Monis, who was granted political asylum in Australia in 1996, was found guilty in 2012 of sending offensive and threatening letters to families of eight Australian soldiers killed in Afghanistan.
rc/jr (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)