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Sydney Hostage Standoff

Australia PM: Hostage-Taker Was Dropped From Watch List

Victims of Sydney Hostage Siege Remembered as Heroes 2:55

A gunman responsible for a deadly siege in a Sydney cafe was once on the national security agency's watch list — but was dropped off it years ago for reasons that remain unclear, Australia's prime minister said Wednesday.

Man Haron Monis, a 50-year-old Iranian-born, self-styled cleric described by Prime Minister Tony Abbott as deeply disturbed, took 17 people hostage inside a downtown Sydney cafe on Monday. Sixteen hours later, the siege ended in a barrage of gunfire when police rushed in to free the captives. Two hostages died along with Monis.

Abbott said Wednesday that Monis was on the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation's watch list in 2008 and 2009, but had dropped off. The agency was watching Monis because he had sent a series of offensive letters to the families of dead Australian soldiers, Abbott said. "I don't know why he dropped off the watch list in those days, I really don't," Abbott said. The Australian government has launched an inquiry into how the former refugee was granted citizenship, and how he came to be in possession of a firearm.

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— The Associated Press