TEHRAN, YJC .-- Haron Monis, a 49-year-old man who was gunned down after taking dozens of people hostage in a cafe in Sydney for 16 hours, had expressed his allegiance to Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) Leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi in a public statement on November 18 Fars news agency reported.
Dozens of people were held by at least two armed men inside the Lindt Café in Sydney’s central business district earlier today. Footage aired by the Australian television showed a black flag with white Arabic writings being held against a window of the place by terrified hostages. The flag belonged to the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra Front, one of the Takfiri terror groups operating against the government in Syria.
Later reports identified the gunman, who was killed after commandos stormed the cafe held under siege for 16 hours, as Haron Monis, 49, an Iranian refugee who had received political asylum in Australia in 1996 and was on bail facing a number of charges.
On a website, now suspended, he describes himself as a convert to Sunni Islam. In his statement he expresses "allegiance" to ISIL and its leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, calling the ISIL Caliph as his "Imam".
Also in his statement, the formerly Shiite Muslim underlines that he has converted to Sunni Islam, stressing that Shiites are blasphemous people.
He also underscores that the war in Iraq is not a sectarian strife, but a war between the Muslims (i.e. ISIL) and the hypocrites.
The self-styled cleric was described by his former lawyer as an isolated figure.
One of his demands was to have a flag of the ISIL, the Sunni-Takfiri militant group which recently seized territory in Syria and Iraq, to be delivered to the cafe to replace the Al-Nusra flag that he had taken to the cafe with himself.
The centre of the city was put in lockdown when the gunman seized the hostages early on Monday, forcing some of them to hold up the Al-Nusra banner at the window of the Lindt cafe.
The cafe is located in Martin Place, a busy shopping area in Sydney's financial district.
At least three people are reported dead, including Monis, after commandos stormed the cafe held under siege for 16 hours.
No one yet knows the underlying cause of the attack.
Reports in the local media suggest the commandos from the Royal Australian Regiment entered the building after the gunman started firing shots.
Shortly after 02:00 local time Tuesday (15:00 GMT Monday), several hostages fled from the building.
Minutes later, the commandos with assault rifles and wearing helmets and body armour could be seen piling into the cafe, tossing stun grenades ahead of them, and apparently opening fire.
Hostages ran to safety with their hands in the air. The dramatic scenes of the rescue operation were broadcast live on television.
New South Wales police announced the end of the siege at 02:44 local time (15:44 GMT) in a tweet, promising details later.
Meantime, more than forty Australian Muslim groups strongly condemned the attack.
On Monday, the Ahlulbayt World Assembly of Australia in a statement underlined that the perpetrators of the terror act are not following the religion of Islam.
The non-governmental organization (NGO) further noted that Islam represents peace and harmony to humanity, and is not what is being shown today.
"We reject any attempt to take the innocent life of any human being, or to instill fear and terror into their hearts. Any such despicable act only serves to play into the agendas of those who seek to destroy the goodwill of the people of Australia and to further damage and ridicule the religion of Islam and Australian Muslims throughout this country," a statement signed by dozens of Australian Muslim organizations also read.
The NGO added that a small minority are misrepresenting the religion of Islam and Islamic beliefs.
Australia's top Muslim cleric, Ibrahim Abu Mohamed, also slammed the Sydney café hostage taking, saying it is "denounced in Islam".
"The grand mufti and the Australian National Imams Council condemn this criminal act unequivocally and reiterate that such actions are denounced in part and in whole in Islam," the grand mufti said in a statement.
Meantime, the hashtag #illridewithyou has begun trending around the world after Australians tweeted the term in solidarity with Muslims in response to fears of a racist response to the siege in the Sydney cafe.
The hashtag has since been trending both in Australia and around the world. Twitter users from countries across the planet have voiced their support.
"I’m very proud and inspired by Australia’s stance on Islamophobia. This is what it is all about," one Twitter user said.