SYDNEY, Dec. 16 (UPI) — Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Tuesday that Sydney siege gunman Man Haron Monis was “well known” to authorities but wasn’t on a terror watch list.
“I don’t believe he was on a terror watch list at this time,” Abbott told reporters at a Tuesday afternoon press conference in Sydney.
“If I can be candid with you, that is the question that we were asking ourselves around the national security committee of the cabinet today,” he added. “How can someone who has had such a long and chequered history, not be on the appropriate watch lists, and how can someone like that be entirely at large in the community?”
Monis, 50, arrived in Australia as an Iranian refugee in 1996. He was granted bail last December on charges that he was an accessory to the murder of his ex-wife. He also faced more than 40 counts of sexual and indecent assault.
Monis, a self-described cleric, was previously charged with sending “grossly offensive” letters to bereaving families of Australian soldiers.
“Our hearts go out to the families of Katrina Dawson and Tori Johnson,” Abbott said of the two hostages who were shot and killed in Monday’s attack. “Decent, innocent people who were caught up in the sick fantasy of a deeply disturbed individual.”
Abbott spoke after he and his wife, Margie, visited a makeshift memorial to the victims of Sunday’s siege in Martin Place, where thousands of mourners have left a growing pile of flowers and condolence notes.
Both Abbott and his wife brought bouquets to contribute.