I’m troubled by the Sydney siege at the Lindt Chocolate Café in Martin Place that has just concluded with 3 fatalities and 3 injured.
For starters, here’s one easy question: What’s wrong with these pictures (above from 7 News and the 2 below) and the video below (watch from 2:06 onwards)?
Photo credit: 7 News
Picture: Ross Schultz Source: News Corp Australia
Now, the real question is: Where were the snipers? And why didn’t they shoot when they had the chance?
(Snipers reportedly manned nearby rooftops and shouted “Hostage down, window two” only when tactical police stormed the café at the end of the siege.)
If the media had these clear shots of the gunman Man Haron Monis, why didn’t the authorities have the snipers to take him down within the 16 hours window? If the snipers were not in a better position than the media, surely they have enough time to move for better views, rooftop or on the ground? The snipers of course need clearance from their commanders who should be on site with their squads. So does that mean the authorities did not want to kill him for whatever reasons?
Certainly many complicated questions but in any case, there were 17 hostages at stake and the police did not move in for the kill until (negotiations apparently failed and) there were gunshots within the café?
I have only one potential explanation: the authorities were concerned with the hostage taker’s claims that there were other explosive devices planted around the city – and the police have intelligence that he has comrades who would trigger those devices if he’s dead (I know it’s easier said than done but with good use of negotiators and intelligence, and a good 16-hour timeframe, the police and intelligence agencies could have established if he has other accomplices to detonate those devices, if any – plus it’s not that Man Haron Monis was any stranger to the Australian authorities. They should have a huge file on him all along).
Anything short (and as it turned out, his former lawyer, Manny Conditsis, reportedly told the media that Monis was an isolated figure who had acted alone), it’s sad to see yet another case whereby the authorities have not followed protocol in hostage situations: Take the man down (at the very opportunity).
It’s reminiscent of the Manila hostage event of 23 August 2010, when the hostage taker, former Philippines police officer Rolando Mendoza, hijacked a tourist bus with 25 hostages onboard. He was in plain sight (see picture below) several times, more than sufficient for the snipers to decide where to aim. But the Philippines authorities missed the opportunities, resulting in 9 deaths (including the perpetrator).
A longer version of this column appears in AsiaSentinel.com