Police have identified the Sydney hostage taker who died in an exchange of gunfire as Man Haron Monis, a self-proclaimed “spiritual healer” who was already under investigation for charges of murder and sexual assault.
A number of biographical details have since surfaced about the lone gunman, including:
1. He was an Iranian emigrant.
Monis, age 50, was born in Iran and emigrated to Australia in 1996, Australia’s 9News reports.
2. He converted from Shi‘ite to Sunni Islam.
He jettisoned his birth name Manteghi Bourjerdi and rejected his religious upbringing as a Shi‘ite Muslim, favoring instead an extreme interpretation of Sunni Islam, according to a post on his website in which he refers to Shi‘ites in a derogatory term, BBC reports.
3. He dubbed himself a sheik.
He adopted the alias Sheik Haron and styled himself as a local “spiritual adviser.” Muslim community leaders dispute those assertions, telling Australia’s 9News that he was a largely marginalized figure “shunned” by the community.
4. He claimed no allegiance to terrorist groups.
Monis declared himself independent of any affiliations with known terrorist organizations, though he did gain a brief moment of media attention in 2009 for his strident protests against Australian troop involvement in Afghanistan. His protests included harassing the families of dead soldiers by sending offensive letters. Some Islamic blogs nicknamed him the Fake Sheik, the Australian reported in 2007.
5. He was in trouble with the law.
Monis faced criminal charges for being an accessory to the murder of his ex-wife, whose body was found with stab wounds and burn marks in a Sydney suburb. He also was charged for allegedly committing upwards of 40 sexual assaults during his work as a “spiritual healer.”
The Sydney Morning Herald reports that he had been convicted for the letter-writing campaign, and that Monday’s shooting incident followed an Australian court’s decision on Friday to uphold the conviction.
6. He is believed to have acted alone.
Police have identified him as a “lone” actor and believe that the hostage plot began and ended with him. His independence has also raised alarms in the security establishment about the difficulty of disrupting plots that are hatched in isolation by lone radicals.
7. He had “nothing to lose.”
Manny Conditsis, a lawyer who represented Monis last year, said Monis was a “damaged goods individual,” the Sydney Morning Herald reports. He was an isolated fanatic, the lawyer continued, who may have felt he had nothing to lose. “His ideology is just so strong and so powerful that it clouds his vision for common sense and objectiveness.”
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