World / Asia-Pacific

Australia launches urgent investigation on Sydney siege

(Xinhua) Updated: 2014-12-17 16:10

CANBERRA -- Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced at a press conference on Wednesday that the federal and New South Wales (NSW) governments are launching an urgent review on the siege in a Sydney caf earlier this week.

"The Commonwealth and New South Wales governments will urgently conduct a review into the Martin Place siege and what lessons can be learned from the events leading up to and surrounding the siege, " said a joint statement by the prime minister and NSW Premier Mike Baird on Wednesday.

Abbott said there are some obvious questions that need answering in the wake of the terrorist attack, including how the gunman Mon Haron Monis was able to get a gun licence.

Monis was well known to the NSW police. When committing the hostage taking, he was on bail for being an accessory to the murder of his ex-wife, as well as facing more than 40 charges of sexual assault. He had previously been convicted for sending offensive letters to families of deceased Australian soldiers.

Other questions to be addressed include how Monis was granted asylum in 1996 when he entered Australia as an asylum seeker; how he got his permanent residency and Australian citizenship; what support he had received from government social support agencies; what information the agencies held about him and how any information relevant to public safety was shared between, and used by, agencies.

Abbott expressed particular concern that Monis had dropped off the terrorist watch list, given he had such a long and chequered history.

The Australian Associated Press reported that Monis was being watched by Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO) back in 2008 when he was sending "profoundly offensive" letters to the families of dead Australian soldiers.

"I don't know why he dropped off the watch list in those days, I really don't," Abbott said. "That's one of the reasons we need this inquiry."

"It does need to be thorough, it does need to be swift, and we do need to put the lessons into practice as quickly as we can," Abbott said, adding that the most important duty of government is to preserve the safety of "our country and our citizens."

The review will take account of the parallel investigations into the incident including by the NSW State Coroner, and NSW Police and Australian Federal Police.

The review will prepare a report for consideration by the Commonwealth and NSW Cabinets by the end of January 2015.

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