TIME Australia

Australian Woman Arrested in Deaths of 8 Children

Australia Children Killed
Emergency services workers cover off the perimeter fence of a house where eight children have been found dead in a Cairns suburb in far north Queensland, Australia, Friday, Dec. 19, 2014. Graeme Bint—AP

(SYDNEY) — An Australian woman was arrested for murder in the killings of eight children, seven of whom are believed to be her own, police said Saturday. The children were found dead inside the woman’s home.

The 37-year-old woman, who is recovering in a hospital from stab wounds, was under guard and speaking with police, Queensland Police Detective Inspector Bruno Asnicar said. She has not yet been charged.

Police haven’t said how the children died. But Asnicar said they’re examining several knives in the home that may have been the weapon used to kill them.

The children ranged in age from 18 months to 14 years, Asnicar said. The woman is thought to be the mother of seven of the children. The eighth is believed to be her niece.

Queensland police were called to the home in the Cairns suburb of Manoora on Friday morning after receiving a report of a woman with serious injuries. When they got to the house, they found the bodies of the children.

The woman, whose name has not been released, was also found in the home with the children, suffering from stab wounds to the chest. Asnicar said she is in stable condition, lucid and talking to police.

“We’re not looking for anybody else — we’re comfortable that the community at large is safe,” Asnicar said.

A coroner was conducting autopsies to determine the causes of death, and police were continuing to comb through the house for evidence.

“They’re looking to establish 100 percent what happened in that house when these offenses were committed,” Asnicar said.

He dismissed rumors that the house had been the subject of calls from the Department of Social Services.

“It’s not a problem house as has been speculated,” he said. “This is an ordinary neighborhood — a lot of good people, a lot of kids in the area. This is something that has caught everybody by surprise. It’s just an absolutely tragic thing.”

Lisa Thaiday, who said she was the injured woman’s cousin, said earlier that one of the woman’s other sons, a 20-year-old, came home and found his brothers and sisters dead inside the house.

“I’m going to see him now, he needs comforting,” Thaiday said. “We’re a big family … I just can’t believe it. We just found out (about) those poor babies.”

The tragedy comes as Australia is still reeling from the shock of a deadly siege in a Sydney cafe. On Monday, a gunman burst into the cafe in the heart of the city and took 18 hostages. Two hostages were dead along with the gunman after police stormed in 16 hours later in a bid to end the siege. Police had earlier said there were 17 hostages in the cafe, but revised the number after a new count.

“The news out of Cairns is heartbreaking,” Prime Minister Tony Abbott said in a statement. “All parents would feel a gut-wrenching sadness at what has happened. This is an unspeakable crime. These are trying days for our country.”

TIME Companies

Uber Is Trying to Patent Its Surge Pricing Technology

The practice recently fueled criticism when users in Sydney faced rising prices as they tried to flee the area of a hostage crisis

The fast-growing ride-sharing service Uber wants to patent a pricing technology that has come under fire from critics who accuse the company of price gouging.

The technology, which Uber calls “surge pricing,” is among at least 13 patent applications the company has filed with the U.S. patent office, which typically become public 18 months after filing, Bloomberg reports. So far, most of the applications have been initially rejected for “obviousness” or because they were otherwise ineligible, but there’s been no decision yet on the surge pricing technology.

Read more: This is how Uber’s surge pricing works

The company, which was founded in San Francisco in 2009 and has already expanded to more than 50 countries, has defended the practice, which adjusts prices in real time based on the amount of demand in the area.

But Uber, already under pressure in jurisdictions around the world over regulatory and safety concerns, drew renewed criticism when the service raised prices in Sydney earlier this week as users were trying to leave the area around a hostage crisis.

[Bloomberg]

TIME portfolio

The Best Pictures of the Week: Dec. 12 – Dec. 19

TIME selects the best pictures of the week

From the restoration of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba to the Pakistan school massacre and the Sydney cafe siege to Russia’s economic crisis, TIME presents the best pictures of the week.

 

TIME Morning Must Reads

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We will hold an #AskTIME subscriber Q&A today, Friday, December 19, at 1 p.m., with TIME managing editor, Nancy Gibbs, who recently selected The Ebola Fighters as TIME’s choice for Person of the Year 2014.

You can submit your questions beforehand on Twitter using the #AskTIME hashtag or in the comments of this post. We depend on smart, interesting questions from readers.

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TIME Australia

Eight Children Found Dead at Home in Australia’s Far North

Police carry equipment near a road block outside a house where eight children have been found dead  in the Cairns suburb of Manoora, Australia, Friday Dec. 19, 2014.
Police carry equipment near a road block outside a house where eight children have been found dead in the Cairns suburb of Manoora, Australia, Friday Dec. 19, 2014. Graeme Bint—AP

Community preparing for the festive season receives devastating shock

Eight children, ranging in age from 18 months to 15 years, were found dead inside a home in the northern Australian city of Cairns on Friday.

Police went to the house in the suburb of Manoora after receiving reports of an injured woman, the Associated Press said. On arrival, the police found the bodies of the children inside the residence. They were reportedly stabbed.

The 34-year-old woman, believed to be the mother of seven of the children, is currently being treated for her injuries, according to authorities. Police said they are unable to confirm her relationship to the victims, however, and added that she is not in custody for the time being.

The Queensland Ambulance Service says the woman had a wound to her chest, and is currently in stable condition after being taken to he hospital.

Dozens of police vehicles are at the scene, according to the ABC.

Cairns detective inspector Bruno Asnicar, speaking to reporters at around 4.30 p.m. local time, said the identification of the children is an ongoing process and more details on that front might emerge on Saturday. Asnicar also said that there were no formal suspects as yet. “Everybody who’s had any involvement in the past two or three days is a person of interest, but we’re not identifying particular suspects at this stage.”

The top police official said it was “right up there” with the most serious cases he had dealt with in his career.

“These are trying days for our country,” Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said in a statement released Friday afternoon. “All parents would feel a gut-wrenching sadness at what has happened.”

Friday’s incident comes four days after a gunman took more than a dozen people hostage at a café in Sydney, resulting in three deaths including his own.

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Morning Must Reads: December 17

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We will hold an #AskTIME subscriber Q&A this Friday, December 19, at 1 p.m., with TIME managing editor Nancy Gibbs, who recently selected The Ebola Fighters as TIME’s choice for Person of the Year 2014.

You can submit your questions beforehand on Twitter using the #AskTIME hashtag or in the comments of this post. We depend on smart, interesting questions from readers.

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TIME Australia

Australia’s PM Questions Gun and Security Laws After Sydney Siege

Prime Minister Tony Abbott speaks to the media during a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra, Australia, Dec. 17 2014.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott speaks to the media during a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra, Australia, Dec. 17 2014. Lukas CochL—EPA

Tony Abbott expressed alarm that the hostage taker had been able to obtain a gun even though he was awaiting trial on charges related to a murder, as well as facing more than 40 charges of sexual assault

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has said that the nation’s gun laws and national security policies are up for serious review after a disturbed man, on bail for being accessory to a murder and facing other charges, was able to acquire a firearm and take over a central Sydney café on Monday, leading to the deaths of two hostages.

The Prime Minister told reporters Wednesday that it troubled him to be unable to explain how Man Haron Monis managed to get off watch lists, despite a well-documented history of extremist beliefs, mental problems and violent behavior. He has ordered federal and New South Wales officials to conduct a massive review of how Monis went for years unnoticed by the authorities.

“Plainly, there are questions to be asked,” said Abbott. “And I want answers to those questions.”

Among those questions, he said, is how “someone involved in a horrific murder” and out on bail was allowed to have a gun license.

At the time Monis entered the Lindt Chocolat Café in Martin Place, taking 17 people hostage at gunpoint, he was awaiting trial for acting as an accessory to the murder of his former wife, Noleen Hayson Pal. He was also facing more than 40 sexual-assault charges involving seven alleged victims.

Abbott also said it was unclear why Monis was dropped from Australia’s terrorism watch list in 2009. Monis, who is Iranian-born, was added to the list in 2008 and 2009, after he sent threatening letters to the families of dead armed service members. He was sentenced for that crime in 2009 and lost his last appeal just days before the attack.

“He was being looked at,” said Abbott. “I don’t know why he dropped off the watch list. I really don’t.”

Monis, 50, was killed along with the café manager and another hostage when police broke the 16-hour standoff and stormed the café in the early hours of Tuesday.

Abbott said he could neither confirm nor deny that Iran had at one point sought to extradite Monis, saying only that Monis “has a very jagged history.”

The Iranian police have said they sought Monis’ extradition 14 years ago for fraud and “violent” offenses, but were rebuffed by authorities in Australia, where Monis received political asylum and lived on public benefits. Abbot said Tuesday that Monis appeared to be “having a lend at us,” using a colloquial Australian phrase meaning to fool or trick.

TIME foreign affairs

Sydney Hostage Attack Is Not a Wake-Up Call

APTOPIX Australia Police Operation
A hostage runs to tactical response police officers for safety after she escaped from a cafe under siege at Martin Place in Sydney, Australia, on Dec. 15, 2014. Rob Griffith—AP

Peter Romaniuk is Associate Professor of Political Science at John Jay College and Senior Fellow at the Global Center on Cooperative Security.

Australia has been deeply invested in counterterrorism for years, and lone-actor terrorism is exactly the type of attack analysts had predicted

For Australians, the images of the police raid on a café in downtown Sydney, where hostages were being held by a lone gunman, were other-worldly. Like Americans, Australians are proud of our cosmopolitanism; but unlike the U.S., we take for granted low levels of gun violence. Shock, confusion, and anger are inevitable reactions. How should we make sense of such an event and what does this mean for the future?

In October this year, after a gunman attacked the parliament complex in Ottawa, many described the incident as a “wake-up call” for Canada. The same cannot be said here, for two reasons. First, this is the kind of attack that analysts had predicted. For several years now, lone-actor terrorism, wherein individuals embrace violence after consuming extremist content on the Internet, has been identified as a principal threat in Western democracies. Most recently, the voluntary passage of Western citizens to join the so-called Islamic State in Syria – the “foreign terrorist fighter” (FTF) phenomenon – has heightened the sense of danger from self-radicalization, not least because ISIS has implored would-be volunteers to also take action at home.

Second, Australia is deeply invested in counterterrorism and has been for years, especially since 88 Australians were killed by a terrorist bomb in Bali, Indonesia, in 2002. Domestically, recent high-profile arrests and further rounds of legislating attest to the prominence of counterterrorism in Australian public life. The fact that perhaps 70 Australian citizens have volunteered as FTFs is widely known and debated. State police forces have generally done well to enhance counterterrorism capacity while nurturing community relations. Governments at the state and federal level have advanced preventive measures to reduce the appeal of extremism. Australia has acted bilaterally and regionally to support counterterrorism initiatives among our neighbors. Internationally, Australia has used its term on the United Nations Security Council to advance multilateral counterterrorism, including recent action on FTFs.

At first glance, then, the siege may be interpreted to be the realization of Australians’ worst fears. But it would be wrong to conclude that everything has changed for Australia’s national security. For one thing, the gunman in question, Man Haron Monis, a self-styled cleric from Iran granted asylum in Australia, seems to be an atypical lone-terrorist actor, insofar as such a profile exists. Rather than blending into the background and self-radicalizing outside of public or familial view, Monis was well-known to the criminal justice system, was on bail for numerous violent offenses, and had been charged with others. Although Monis hung a flag with the Islamic Shahada in the café window – giving rise to mistaken concerns about a foreign connection – his attack seems to have been in the service of perceived grievances that are political but idiosyncratic and not in the service of global extremism such as that of ISIS. The bail system, more than levels of domestic radicalization, are rightly the immediate concern for journalists and others asking questions about the offender.

Moreover, the response to the siege gives some cause for reassurance. Details of events in the café are only now emerging but the tactical proficiency of law enforcement has already been widely noted. Perhaps more importantly, the tone of the response from government and civil society – and also on social media – has been measured, displaying a concern to maintain social cohesion. Self-conscious counterterrorism – that is, responses that reflect awareness that extremists profit from overreaction– is vital to preventing radicalization today and tomorrow.

Australians woke up on Tuesday morning to the sadness of lost innocents. But the threat environment facing the country remains unchanged. The parameters of Australian counterterrorism are generally sound. In the days and weeks ahead, it will serve us well to acknowledge that the response to violent incidents is a critical part of the effort to counter violent extremism.

Peter Romaniuk is Associate Professor of Political Science at John Jay College and Senior Fellow at the Global Center on Cooperative Security.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Australia

Stop Linking the Sydney Siege to Islam

AUSTRALIA-SIEGE-CONFLICT
Visitors look at a makeshift memorial near the scene of the fatal siege in the heart of Sydney's financial district on Dec. 16, 2014. Sydneysiders including tearful office workers and Muslim women in hijabs laid flowers at the scene in an outpouring of grief and shock Peter Parks—AFP/Getty Images

The perpetrator was not a jihadist but a criminal described by his own lawyer as "damaged goods"

If the location of the Sydney siege — images of which flashed around the world for 16 hours before two hostages and a gunman were killed — appeared familiar, it’s because Martin Place is a popular international film set. Superman Returns and the Matrix trilogy were filmed in the pedestrianized, central Sydney precinct, lined with colonial-era buildings that are the headquarters of Australia’s largest financial institutions, law firms and broadcasters as well as high-end retailers like Brooks Brothers and the Lindt Chocolat Café, where the tragedy took place.

What is absolutely alien, on the other hand, is that nature of a man like the 50-year-old Iranian-born perpetrator, Man Haron Monis. There is no point in trying to place him, as some have attempted, in an overarching discourse of Islamist terrorism and history, because he was plainly not a terrorist but a mentally disturbed individual and serial sex offender. Neither is it helpful to describe this tragedy — as media mogul Rupert Murdoch did — as a “wake-up call” for the nation, because, from the Port Arthur massacre to the Bali bombings, Australia has had plenty of those already.

To be sure, Monis lost a final appeal in the High Court to overturn a conviction he had received for sending hate mail to the widows of Australian troops killed in Afghanistan. So much, so jihadist. But he was also a pervert (facing 40 charges of sexual assault) and accused of being an accessory to the murder of his ex-wife. That makes him more criminal than terrorist. As everyone now knows, he couldn’t even get his props right: the black flag he forced his hostages to hold in the window of the café was not the emblem of the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) but a plain and simple shahada — a common Muslim inscription that says “There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.” Unable to furnish his own, Monis had to demand an ISIS flag from the authorities in exchange for a hostage. He never got it.

It’s true that Australia has been expecting a terrorist attack. Security assets have been high alert since September when ISIS called for members to seek retribution against Australia and other members of the coalition it is fighting in the Middle East. Clive Williams, professor at Macquarie University’s Department of Policing, Intelligence and Counter Terrorism, also concedes that Monis’ deranged last stand “had some of the characteristics of a terror attack — it was religiously motivated, designed to terrorize and directed towards noncombatants.” But, he stresses, “the thing that was lacking was strategy. It was an irrational act of violence and it is not clear what he hoped to achieve.”

He adds: “It seems more of a reaction to the problems he was experiencing in the criminal justice system. The one thing that will probably come out of this that we need to look at how we manage people with mental-health issues.”

Williams sentiments were echoed by Keysar Trad, the founder of the Islamic Friendship Association of Australia and voice for Sydney’s Lebanese Muslim community: “I am hoping that all Australians will see this for what it is: the actions of a madman.”

Australia’s long-suffering asylum seekers, thousands of whom remain cruelly holed up in indefinite detention in offshore detention centers in third-world backwaters, may be fearing some backlash. Monis arrived in Australian in 1996 as a political exile. Abdul Numan Haider, a teenage terrorist suspect who was shot dead in Melbourne in September after attacking two police officers with a knife, arrived in Australia as a refugee with his parents a decade ago.

The Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA), however, has refused to entertain suggestions that the Australian government will clamp down even harder on refugees. “I don’t think there is any point speculating,” an RCOA spokesperson tells TIME. “It’s not something we are talking about.”

Greg Barton of the Global Terrorism Research Centre also talks the idea down. “I don’t think it makes sense to relate this event to Australia’s migration policy, except to say that people coming from troubled backgrounds are vulnerable to further trouble themselves. We need to reach out to them more and engage with them rather than simply seizing their passports,” he says of the dozens of Australian Muslims who’ve had their travel documents seized over fears they intend to join the 150-odd Australian jihadists fighting in Syria and Iraq.

Monis may have sympathized with those fighters and he may have been inspired by them to a degree. But trying to make sense of a lunatic killer described by his own lawyer as “damaged goods” is an exercise in futility. He could just as easily have cloaked himself in the guise of any number of radical causes to help generate media coverage.

In that sense, Monis has not changed Australia forever but the opposite: he has brought out what was always there. Take a look at the #IllRideWithYou social-media hashtag, used to express solidarity with Australians Muslims fearing the scapegoating and bigotry that invariably follows events like this. In that gesture of support is the spontaneous generosity and the tolerance and the ready compassion that is forever Australian.

TIME Australia

A Stunned Australia Asks How the Sydney Siege Could Have Happened

How was a man accused of being an accessory to the murder of his ex-wife, and facing 40 charges of sexual assault, able to obtain a gun and be at liberty?

Australian officials offered words of comfort and sympathy to a shocked nation after a 16-hour siege at a café in central Sydney ended with the death of two hostages on Tuesday.

Three people died, including the armed perpetrator, when police commandos stormed the Lindt café in Martin Place in the early hours of Tuesday morning. Six people, including hostages and police officers, were injured during the raid; however, all are in stable condition according to authorities.

“Those poor people who went into get a cup of coffee or buy some chocolates for a friend for Christmas got caught up in this terrible situation,” Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Tuesday. “It’s a truly shocking thing to happen in our city because our city is a very harmonious, socially diverse, welcoming and inclusive city.”

Prime Minister Tony Abbott extended condolence to the victims’ families during a national address on Tuesday morning and also commended the public for being “resilient” and “ready to respond” during the crisis.

Earlier in the day, Abbott ordered flags across the country to be flown at half-mast.

Australian officials are meanwhile faced with daunting questions about how the gunman, Man Haron Monis, was able to obtain a firearm and remain at liberty after having several run-ins with the law. The self-declared sheik had reportedly been charged with committing an estimated 40 sexual assaults while being a so-called “spiritual healer.” Monis was also on bail and facing charges of being an accessory to the murder of his ex-wife.

“There will need to be tough questions about whether our systems for identifying potential perpetrators of terrorist crimes like this are good enough,” Rory Medcalf, security-program director at Australian think tank the Lowy Institute, tells TIME. “Questions will be asked why this particular individual was able to commit this act while on bail for serious crimes.”

The Australian Broadcasting Corp. (ABC) reports that a recently passed bail law in New South Wales, which could have prevented an individual with a record on par with the gunman from remaining on the streets, is set to go in effect early next year.

The fact that it was not in force to prevent this tragedy is “frustrating for me as attorney general, frustrating for the premier, frustrating for the entire government, frustrating for the entire NSW community,” said Brad Hazzard, the New South Wales attorney general, according to ABC.

Analysts warned that the acts of a crazed lone gunman should not be used as political fodder to tighten the current government’s stringent policy toward asylum seekers trying to enter the country. (Monis was granted political asylum by Australia in 1996 after fleeing Iran.)

“Australia was founded by foreigners,” said Clarke Jones, a terrorism expert at the Australian National University’s College of Asia and the Pacific. “I hope we continue to take other nationalities into Australia. It makes it a much more interesting and healthy, wealthy place.”

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