Report: No intelligence failure in Australia cafe siege

Review says nation’s security hotline had received 18 calls about self-styled cleric but none suggested imminent attack.

Australia - Slef-styled cleric Haron Monis
Self-styled cleric Man Haron Monic laid siege to the Lindt cafe, killing its manager before police stormed the building and shot him [EPA]

Eighteen calls were made to an Australian national security hotline about a self-styled cleric in the days before he carried out a deadly Sydney siege but none suggested an imminent attack, a review said.

Armed with a pump-action shotgun, Iranian-born Man Haron Monis took 17 people hostage in Sydney’s Lindt chocolate cafe on December 15.

Some 17 hours later he shot dead cafe manager Tori Johnson, 34, prompting police to storm the building and kill him. Another hostage, Katrina Downson, 38, died in the crossfire.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the government was determined to learn from the review but added that the “system has let us down”.

“Plainly, this monster should not have been in our community,” Abbott told reporters in Sydney in releasing the review.

“He shouldn’t have been allowed into the country. He shouldn’t have been out on bail. He shouldn’t have been with a gun and he shouldn’t have become radicalised.”

The review said a national security hotline had received 18 calls about Monis between December 9 and 12, and they were all about offensive material on his Facebook page.

No major threats

“None of the calls related to any intentions or statements regarding a pending attack – imminent or otherwise,” the review said, adding that all were all considered by intelligence and police authorities.

“On the basis of the information available at the time, he fell well outside the threshold to be included in the 400 highest priority counter-terrorism investigations,” the review said.

“He was only one of several thousand people of potential security concern.”

Right up until the siege, intelligence and law enforcement agencies had “never found any information to indicate Monis had the intent or desire to commit a terrorist act”.

In a statement, Abbott and New South Wales Premier Mike Baird said the review found “there were no major failings of intelligence or process in the lead up to the siege”.

“However, the inescapable conclusion is that the system as a whole let the community down,” they said.

“Monis was given the benefit of the doubt every time.

“He consistently fell beneath any threshold which would have triggered greater scrutiny or a rejection of his applications when it came to immigration, residence and citizenship, terrorism offences, national security powers and bail.”

The review found that in the last months of his life, become inspired by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant group and had rapidly become radicalised.

Source: AFP