Police Boost Security as Sydney Siege Ends in Fatal Shootout – Bloomberg

Police stepped up security across Sydney after a 16-hour siege in a city cafe ended in a shootout that left two hostages and the gunman dead.

Mother-of-three Katrina Dawson, a 38-year-old barrister, and cafe manager Tori Johnson, 34, died after officers stormed the premises in a pre-dawn raid. Man Haron Monis, 50, a self-proclaimed Islamic cleric from Iran with a history of violent crime and extremist sympathies, was also killed.

Officers launched Operation Hammerhead, increasing patrols at transport hubs, landmarks and places of worship to safeguard the public, including members of the Muslim Community. Monis, who opposed Australia’s role in the Afghan conflict, had forced some of his 17 hostages to hold a black Islamic flag in the window of the Lindt cafe in Martin Place.

“Tragically, there are people in our community ready to engage in politically motivated violence,” said Prime Minister Tony Abbott, whose government raised Australia’s terrorism alert to the highest level in a decade three months ago. “The events in Martin Place also show that we are ready to deal with these people, professionally and with the full force of law.”

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Rapid gunshots and explosions at about 2 a.m. broke the silence in the plaza, which is home to the Reserve Bank of Australia and the U.S. Consulate. Police stormed the cafe after gunfire was heard inside, New South Wales Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione told reporters.

Gunshot Wounds

Four people received gunshot wounds, including a 75-year-old woman who was hit in the shoulder, a 52-year-old woman who was shot in the foot, and a 43-year-old woman treated for a leg wound, police said in a statement. All three are in a stable condition. A police officer received a minor facial injury and was discharged from the hospital after treatment.

The gunman was well known to Federal and State authorities and had a “long history of violent crime, infatuation with extremism and mental instability”, Abbott told reporters in Canberra. He said later in Sydney that Monis wasn’t on any police or intelligence watchlists.

“That is the question that we were asking ourselves around the National Security Committee of Cabinet today: how can someone who has had such a long and checkered history not be on the appropriate watchlists and how can someone like that be entirely at large and in the community,” he said.

Monis was charged last year with being an accessory to murder and had sent offensive letters to the families of Australian soldiers killed in Afghanistan.

Death Cult

“He sought to cloak his actions with the symbolism of the ISIL death cult,” Abbott said, referring to Islamic State, an al-Qaeda offshoot that has this year expanded the area under its control in both Iraq and Syria.

The cafe’s manager, Johnson, died in the final moments of the siege as he attempted to wrestle a shotgun from Monis, who was dozing off, Nine television network reported. Four of the captives worked for Westpac Banking Corp. (WBC), which said in a statement that the employees were all now safe.

Five of the hostages escaped from the building on the first day, while about six fled in the closing moments of the siege.

The increased security comes two weeks before New year’s Eve, when tens of thousands of people, many overseas tourists, gather on the foreshores of Sydney harbor to watch a midnight fireworks display that kicks off global celebrations.

The increased police presence will continue over Christmas and in the build up to Dec. 31, state police Deputy Commissioner Catherine Burn told reporters.

Looking for Notoriety

Monis was facing a string of charges, including being an accessory with his girlfriend to the murder of his ex-wife, who was stabbed and then set alight in Sydney. He had also been charged this year with sexual offenses dating back a decade, when he had operated as a self-proclaimed “spiritual healer,” according to the Sydney Morning Herald. He was on bail in relation to both cases, the newspaper said.

“This guy was clearly a risk, judging by his website and his criminal background, and it looked like he was trying to gain the attention of ISIS,” Anne Aly, who runs a counter-terrorism research program at Curtin University in Perth, said by phone. “He was a man after notoriety, not fighting for an ideology.”

In a letter on his website, Monis said he was “under attack” and subjected to “false accusations” by the Australian government and media since his letter-writing campaign against Australia’s involvement in the Afghan conflict.

Concerted Terrorism

His former lawyer, Manny Conditsis, said it’s unlikely Monis engaged in “concerted terrorism” as part of any wider group, and described his ex-client as “damaged goods,” according to the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

Floral tributes piled up in Martin Place and flags at government buildings were flown at half mast as a mark of respect.

“I’m just sad, very sad,” said Voula Tzanis, 54, who works as a typist at a law firm around the corner from the cafe. “You go to get a coffee and you die. It’s sad.”

Authorities cited the threat posed by Islamic State when they raised the terrorism alert three months ago. In September, police carried out their largest anti-terrorism raid, foiling an alleged plot to randomly abduct and behead a member of the public in central Sydney.

An 18-year-old man was shot and killed on Sept. 23 after wounding two counter-terrorism officers in Melbourne with a knife. He stabbed the officers in an unprovoked attack outside a police station, where he was due to be interviewed by police after waving an Islamic State flag inside a shopping center.

To contact the reporters on this story: Nichola Saminather in Sydney at nsaminather1@bloomberg.net; Benjamin Purvis in Sydney at bpurvis@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Edward Johnson at ejohnson28@bloomberg.net Iain McDonald

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Taliban militants dead after killing at least 130, mostly children, in Pakistan school – CNN

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: A Pakistani military spokesman blasts the “ghastly act of cowardice”
  • NEW: Authorities are clearing the school, but all the attackers are thought to be dead
  • The attack was on a Peshawar school; most of those killed were between 12 and 16
  • Pakistan Taliban — Tehreek e Taliban Pakistan, or TTP — claim responsibility

Islamabad, Pakistan (CNN) — A deadly, hours-long siege of a school in northwest Pakistan ended Tuesday evening with all the Taliban militants responsible killed, at least 130 people — most of them children — dead and a country once again grasping for answers after a horrific attack.

Six suicide bombers scaled the walls of Army Public School and Degree College in the violence-plagued city of Peshawar around 10 a.m. (midnight ET) intent on killing older students there, according to Mohammed Khurrassani, a spokesman for the Tehreek e Taliban Pakistan, or Pakistan Taliban.

These Taliban had “300 to 400 people … under their custody” at one point, Khurrassani said.

Pakistani troops responded, fending off gunfire and improvised explosive devices planted by terrorists as they went through the compound, building by building, room by room. By 4 p.m., they had managed to confine the attackers to four buildings, and a few hours later, Peshawar police Chief Mohammad Aijaz Khan said that all of them were dead.

Parents escort their children away from a school attacked by the Taliban in Peshawar on Tuesday, December 16. Militants stormed the military-run school in northwest Pakistan, killing at least 130 people, most of them children. The Pakistan Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, one of the bloodiest in the South Asian nation's history.Parents escort their children away from a school attacked by the Taliban in Peshawar on Tuesday, December 16. Militants stormed the military-run school in northwest Pakistan, killing at least 130 people, most of them children. The Pakistan Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, one of the bloodiest in the South Asian nation’s history.
A wounded student receives treatment at a Peshawar hospital on December 16.A wounded student receives treatment at a Peshawar hospital on December 16.
Pakistani soldiers take position near the site of the school attack in Peshawar on December 16. All the militants in the attack were later killed, a police official said.Pakistani soldiers take position near the site of the school attack in Peshawar on December 16. All the militants in the attack were later killed, a police official said.
A man and woman rush to a Peshawar hospital treating victims of the attack on December 16.A man and woman rush to a Peshawar hospital treating victims of the attack on December 16.
Family members wait outside the Peshawar school for students on December 16.Family members wait outside the Peshawar school for students on December 16.
Pakistani soldiers position themselves at a fence near the besieged school on December 16.Pakistani soldiers position themselves at a fence near the besieged school on December 16.
A Pakistani soldier clears the area outside the school on December 16.A Pakistani soldier clears the area outside the school on December 16.
An injured student lies in bed at a Peshawar hospital after the attack on December 16.An injured student lies in bed at a Peshawar hospital after the attack on December 16.
A hospital security guard helps an injured student at the school on December 16.A hospital security guard helps an injured student at the school on December 16.
Parents leave with their children near the site of the attack on December 16.Parents leave with their children near the site of the attack on December 16.
A plainclothes officer escorts rescued students away from the school on December 16.A plainclothes officer escorts rescued students away from the school on December 16.
Pakistani troops reach the site of the attack on December 16.Pakistani troops reach the site of the attack on December 16.
Volunteers carry a student at a hospital in Peshawar on December 16.Volunteers carry a student at a hospital in Peshawar on December 16.
An injured girl gets rushed to a hospital in Peshawar on December 16.An injured girl gets rushed to a hospital in Peshawar on December 16.
A man comforts a student standing at the bedside of an injured boy at a Peshawar hospital on December 16.A man comforts a student standing at the bedside of an injured boy at a Peshawar hospital on December 16.
A Pakistani soldier takes position on a bunker close to the besieged school on December 16.A Pakistani soldier takes position on a bunker close to the besieged school on December 16.
Relatives of a student killed in the attack mourn over the body in Peshawar on December 16.Relatives of a student killed in the attack mourn over the body in Peshawar on December 16.
Hospital staff transport an injured student in Peshawar on December 16.Hospital staff transport an injured student in Peshawar on December 16.
The body of a victim lies at a hospital in Peshawar on December 16.The body of a victim lies at a hospital in Peshawar on December 16.
Taliban attack Pakistani school
Taliban attack Pakistani school
Taliban attack Pakistani school
Taliban attack Pakistani school
Taliban attack Pakistani school
Taliban attack Pakistani school
Taliban attack Pakistani school
Taliban attack Pakistani school
Taliban attack Pakistani school
Taliban attack Pakistani school
Taliban attack Pakistani school
Taliban attack Pakistani school
Taliban attack Pakistani school
Taliban attack Pakistani school
Taliban attack Pakistani school
Taliban attack Pakistani school
Taliban attack Pakistani school
Taliban attack Pakistani school
Taliban attack Pakistani school
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Photos: Taliban attack Pakistani schoolPhotos: Taliban attack Pakistani school

Map: Peshawar, Pakistan Map: Peshawar, Pakistan

Map: Peshawar, PakistanMap: Peshawar, Pakistan

Pakistan takes on Taliban militants

Still, the ordeal wasn’t over.

Pakistani authorities continued clearing the school in Peshawar, about 120 kilometers (75 miles) from the country’s capital, Islamabad, wary of planted explosives and other potential threats.

Making sure others weren’t still hiding for their safety, counting the dead and treating the wounded — 182, according to provincial ministers — remained pressing tasks as well. Pictures showed victims being treated at a nearby hospital.

In a tweet, military spokesman Gen. Asim Bajwa called the attack a “ghastly act of cowardice in killing innocents” that, in his view, proves that the Taliban are “not only enemies of (Pakistan) but enemies of humanity.”

“They have hit at the heart of the nation,” Bajwa said. “But … they can’t in any way diminish the will of this great nation.”

Minister: Most dead between ages 12 and 16

On a typical day, the Army Public School and Degree College is home to up to 1,000 students, most of them sons and daughters of army personnel from around Peshawar. The boys and girls attend classes in different buildings on the compound.

How many of them will go home to their families alive remained in question Tuesday night, as Pakistani troops went room by room.

The Pakistani military had said that most students and teachers managed to evacuate the complex before being targeted or taken by the Taliban.

But many could not.

Most of those killed were between the ages of 12 and 16, said Pervez Khattak, chief minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, where Peshawar is located.

Violent past

Pakistan has seen plenty of violence, much of it involving militants based in provinces such as South Waziristan, North Waziristan and the Khyber Agency — all restive regions in northwest Pakistan, along its border with Afghanistan.

It is the home base the TTP, an organization that has sought to force its conservative version of Islam in Pakistan. They have battled Pakistani troops and, on a number of occasions, attacked civilians as well.

Schoolchildren have been among their targets. The most notable among them was Malala Yousafzai, who was singled out by Taliban militants October 9, 2012, and shot while riding from home. The teenage girl survived and, last week, became the youngest ever recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts to promote education and girls rights in Pakistan and beyond.

And Peshawar, an ancient city of more than 3 million people tucked right up against the Khyber Pass, has often found itself in the center of it all. Militants have repeatedly targeted Peshawar in response to Pakistani military offensives, like a 2009 truck bombing of a popular marketplace frequented by women and children that killed more than 100 people.

Yousafzai said Tuesday she was “heartbroken by this (latest) senseless and cold blooded act of terror in Peshawar.”

“Innocent children in their school have no place in horror such as this,” the 16-year-old said.

Growing up scared in Peshawar

Deadliest attack since 2007

Still, even by Pakistan and the Taliban’s gruesome standards, Tuesday’s attack may be the most abominable yet.

This is the deadliest incident inside Pakistan since October 2007, when about 139 Pakistanis died and more than 250 others were wounded in an attack near a procession for exiled former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, according to the University of Maryland’s Global Terrorism Database.

As recently as last spring, the Pakistan Taliban — a group closely affiliated with the Taliban in Afghanistan and whose members swear allegiance to the Afghan group’s leader, Mullah Omar — and the Pakistani government were involved in peace talks. The government released 19 Taliban noncombatants in a goodwill gesture.

But talks broke down under a wave of attacks by the Taliban and mounting political pressure to bring the violence under control.

Inside militants’ secret tunnels in Pakistan

Taliban: Revenge for killing of tribesmen

In September 2013, choir members and children attending Sunday school were among 81 people killed in a suicide bombing at the Protestant All Saints Church of Pakistan. A splinter group of the Pakistan Taliban claimed responsibility for the church attack, blaming the U.S. program of drone strikes in tribal areas of the country.

And for the past few months, the Pakistani military has been conducting a ground offensive aimed at clearing out militants. The campaign has displaced tens of thousands of people.

The military offensive in the region has spurred deadly retaliations.

Khurrassani, the Pakistan Taliban spokesman, told CNN that the latest attack was revenge for the killing of hundreds of innocent tribesmen during repeated army operations in provinces including South Waziristan, North Waziristan and the Khyber Agency.

By all standards, the attack on the Army Public School and Degree College is historic — not just for Pakistan, but for the entire world. It’s the bloodiest on a school since armed Chechen rebels took about 1,200 children and adults hostage in Beslan in 2004, a siege that ended with at least 334 people killed.

“The news from Pakistan is deeply shocking,” said British Prime Minister David Cameron. “It’s horrifying that children are being killed simply for going to school.”

The news from Pakistan is deeply shocking. It’s horrifying that children are being killed simply for going to school.

— David Cameron (@David_Cameron) December 16, 2014

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CNN’s Sophia Saifi reported from Islamabad, along with journalists Zahir Shah and Adeel Raja. CNN’s Greg Botelho wrote from Atlanta. CNN’s Paul Armstrong and Tim Lister contributed to this report.

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Suspect hunted after 6 are killed – Columbus Dispatch

PENNSBURG, Pa. — A man suspected of going to three houses in the Philadelphia suburbs and fatally shooting six people, including his ex-wife and her 14-year-old niece, was at large last night, and a prosecutor said investigators didn’t know where he was or how he was getting around.

Police found the cellphone and car of Bradley William Stone, who had recently been in court fighting with his ex-wife over custody of their two children. SWAT teams surrounded his Pennsburg home and pleaded through a bullhorn for him to surrender, but Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman said it was unclear if he was there.

“As I stand here right now, we do not know where he is,” Ferman told reporters at an evening news briefing.

Later, police in neighboring Bucks County swarmed an area outside Doylestown after a reported attempted carjacking by a man said to have been dressed in fatigues and similar in appearance to the suspect.

The shooting rampage started before dawn at the home of Stone’s former sister-in-law in Souderton, and ended about 90 minutes later at ex-wife Nicole Stone’s apartment in nearby Harleysville, Ferman said.

Nicole Stone’s sister, Patricia Flick; her sister’s husband, Aaron Flick; and the couple’s 14-year-old daughter, Nina Flick, were killed in the first wave of violence, which wasn’t discovered until just before

8 a.m., Ferman said.

Their 17-year-old son, Anthony Flick, was pulled from the home with a head wound around 12:30 p.m. and transported to a Philadelphia hospital for treatment.

Nicole Stone’s mother, Joanne Hill; and grandmother, Patricia Hill, were killed next at their home in nearby Lansdale. Investigators were alerted by a hang-up call to emergency dispatchers, Ferman said.

Nicole Stone’s neighbors at the Pheasant Run Apartments in Harleysville said they were awakened around 5 a.m. by the sounds of breaking glass and gunshots coming from her apartment. They said they saw Bradley Stone fleeing with their two children and alerted authorities. Nicole Stone was found dead inside.

“She would tell anybody who would listen that he was going to kill her,” neighbor Evan Weron said.

The children Stone took were safe, Ferman said.

Stone, who’s white, about 5 feet 10 and 195 pounds, was likely wearing military fatigues and was known to use a cane or walker, but it’s possible he did not need them, Ferman said.

Harleysville, Lansdale and Souderton are within a few miles of one another. Police with armored vehicles and rifles moved to Pennsburg after spending several hours outside the home in Souderton where several victims were found.

Brad and Nicole Stone married in 2004 and filed for divorce in March 2009, according to court records.

Weron, the neighbor, said Nicole Stone would talk frequently about the custody dispute.

“(Nicole) came into the house a few times, a few separate occasions, crying about how it was very upsetting to her,” Weron said.

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Taliban storm an elite army high school in Pakistan – Washington Post

By ,

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Taliban militants stormed an elite army high school in northwestern Pakistan on Tuesday, killing at least 126 students and teachers and holding others hostage, in one of the worst school shootings in modern times, according to Pakistani security and hospital officials.

More than three hours after the siege began at mid-day on a Pakistan military installation in Peshawar, explosions and gunfire continued to be heard coming from the school.

The carnage strikes at the heart of Pakistan’s military — one of the nation’s most highly respected institutions — which is seen as the guardians of stability in a turbulent region and an important bridge between Pakistan and Western allies such as the United States.

In June, Pakistan’s army launched a major operation against Islamic militants in the country’s restive tribal areas. Since then, the number of attacks inside the country have sharply declined, but the Pakistani Taliban had been warning for months that it would retaliate.

Maj. Gen. Asim Bajwa, chief spokesman for Pakistan’s military, said in a tweet about 3:30 p.m. local time that soldiers were moving ahead with efforts to free any remaining hostages.

“Three blocks of school cleared, remaining clearance in progress,” Bajwa said on Twitter.

A spokesman for the provincial government said 126 dead bodies had been recovered so far and 120 students and teachers had been wounded. Most of the dead were teenagers, he said.

Pervaiz Khattak, chief minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province, said eight to 10 terrorists wearing military uniforms carried out the attack. He said they started “indiscriminate firing” after entering the school through a back door.

“We condemn it, and those who did it will not be spared,” said Khattak.

Both Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Pakistani Army Chief Raheel Sharif rushed to Peshawar to personally oversee the rescue operation.

A defiant Sharif denounced the school assault as a “cowardly act” and vowed to maintain the military operations against militants in tribal areas “until the menace of terrorism is eliminated from Pakistani soil.”

“The nation needs to get united and face terrorism,” he added. “There is no room for any reluctance and we need unflinching resolve against this plague.”

Across Pakistan, many residents were glued to televisions, shocked and horrified at the images of bloodied children being rushed into overwhelmed hospitals. Hundreds of Pakistani army and police officials immediately headed to the scene.

Mushtag Ghani, the information minister for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, said many of the students were children of Pakistani military officers.

Some students who had been in the school reported seeing numerous dead bodies in the hallways.

Ghani said the terrorists immediately began shooting students when they entered the school through a back door.

“They started firing at students participating in a function at the auditorium,” Ghani told local journalists gathered at the scene. “The terrorists wanted to kill as many people as they could and they seemed to be not interested in hostage taking.”

Ahsam Mukhtar, a student at the school, said he was in a classroom when the assault started.

“Our teacher told us to lie on the ground, but the firing went on and it was very loud.” Mukhtar said in a televised interview. “Then the army came and took us out of the classrooms. In the corridor, I saw dead bodies with bullet injuries in the head. Some had wounds in their arms. I also saw our mathematics teacher lying injured on the floor.”

Pakistan media outlets were airing footage of students being carried into Lady Reading Hospital as grieving parents hovered over hospital beds.

In a statement, the Pakistani Taliban took credit for the attack, saying it was to avenge the Pakistan military operation in North Waziristan. The Taliban said six militants, including three suicide bombers, carried out the assault.

Sharif condemned the attack in a statement and said those behind it will “not be spared,” according to Pakistan’s Express Tribune newspaper.

The attack shatters what had been a period relative calm in Pakistan.

Hanan Askari Rizvi, a Pakistan military analyst, said in an interview the attack was an “unprecedented” even in a country that experienced thousands of terrorists attacks over the past decade.

He said the Taliban appears to growing more desperate as the Pakistan military operation against it continues in North Waziristan.

“Now they are attacking the soft targets,” Rizvi said. “This horrendous act of terror shows that the terrorists have weakened after military operation and that’s why less number of attacks but they still have the ability to strike at soft targets.

Last month, a suicide bombing killed more than 50 people during a military ceremony at the main public crossing between Pakistan and India.

The death toll in Peshawar already has made it among the worst bloodshed at a school in decades.

In September 2004, more than 330 people were killed — nearly half of them children — after Islamist rebels seized control of a school in Beslan in North Ossetia in Russia’s North Caucasus region. Some sources have placed the Beslan death toll higher.

Aimir Iqbal, Haq Nawaz Khan in Peshawar and Shaig Hussain in Islamabad contributed to this report.

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In Sydney Hostage Siege, Australia's New Anti-Terrorism Measures Proved … – New York Times

By THOMAS FULLER and MICHELLE INNIS
December 16, 2014

SYDNEY, Australia — Around the time that grisly images of beheadings circulated across the world this fall, Prime Minister Tony Abbott of Australia introduced a raft of laws in response to what he said was an increasing threat that the Islamic State would attempt a bold act of terrorism on Australian soil.

The laws, which passed the Australian Parliament with wide support, made it an offense to advocate terrorism, even on social media; banned Australians from going to fight overseas; allowed the authorities to confiscate and cancel passports; and provided for the sharing of information between security services and defense personnel. The government also deployed hundreds of police officers in counterterrorism sweeps across the country.

None of these measures prevented a man known to both the police and leaders of Muslim organizations as deeply troubled and with a long history of run-ins with the law from laying siege to a popular downtown cafe in Sydney, Australia, this week and holding hostages for 16 hours. The attacker, Man Haron Monis, an Iranian immigrant, and two of the 17 hostages were killed early Tuesday amid the chaos of a police raid.

The victims were identified on Tuesday as Katrina Dawson, 38, a lawyer, and the cafe’s manager, Tori Johnson, 34.

“The new laws don’t add anything to what can be done in advance in a situation like the siege,” said Bret Walker, a lawyer who was Australia’s first independent monitor for national security laws. In this case, Mr. Monis was overlooked because he did not travel overseas and was not believed to be part of a gang or a terrorist network, experts said.

The case, like recent lone-wolf jihadist attacks in Brussels, Ottawa and New York, raises troubling questions about the ability of governments to monitor homegrown, radicalized would-be jihadists and prevent them from doing harm.

In Australia, the government even had information that the Islamic State sought to recruit just such an attacker to carry out a bold attack in Sydney. “All that would be needed to conduct such an attack is a knife, a camera-phone and a victim,” Mr. Abbott warned Parliament in September.

Mr. Monis, who was reported to be armed with a gun, did not appear to have put a great deal of planning into his attack at the Lindt Cafe. Lacking an Islamic State banner, he demanded one in exchange for several hostages, local news media reported.

Manny Conditsis, a lawyer who had represented Mr. Monis in previous criminal cases, described him as “on the fringe of the fringe.”

“He wasn’t accepted by anybody,” Mr. Conditsis said.

The violence in Sydney occurred two months after a gunman in Canada, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, killed a soldier and stormed the Canadian Parliament in Ottawa, apparently driven by a similar mix of personal disaffection and jihadist zealotry.

Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau, a convert to Islam, had criminal convictions in cases that included robbery and drug-related offenses.

Mr. Monis, who won political asylum in Australia two decades ago, had been a Shiite cleric in Iran. He recently wrote on his website that he had converted to the Sunni branch of Islam.

The similarities among those attacks and one in New York in October, when a man with a hatchet set upon police officers, were the radicalization of people who were isolated from their communities, according to Greg Barton, the director of the Global Terrorism Research Center at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia.

“There is no easy answer to how you deal with that,” Mr. Barton said. “It is just not possible to put people under 24-hour surveillance unless they are prime suspects.”

In another jihadist attack in Canada, the suspect was under surveillance. Martin Rouleau-Couture, also a convert to Islam, had posted radical messages on his Facebook page, including screeds against Christianity and Judaism and praise of Islamic State’s brutality. He was being monitored by the police for possible extremist activity, and was blocked from traveling abroad in July to join Islamic State.

So he didn’t go abroad. On Oct. 20, he ran over two Canadian soldiers in a Quebec parking lot, killing one and injuring another before he was shot and killed by police officers.

Canadian officials have acknowledged that keeping Mr. Rouleau-Couture in the country may have only fueled his radicalism and put greater burdens on law enforcement to keep track of him.

The May shooting at the Jewish Museum in Brussels, which left four people dead, raised additional questions about the ability of extremists to travel through Europe with little scrutiny. the French and Belgian authorities say the 29-year-old French suspect, Mehdi Nemmouche, had spent time in Syria with radical Islamists and tried to conceal it by traveling through Asia before entering Europe in Germany.

The French government used the case to press for laws that would block travel by possible extremists and increase the government’s ability to block websites that call for violent extremism. In Canada, the government introduced legislation increasing surveillance powers for country’s spy agency and granting anonymity to informers. Canada has also begun revoking the passports of people suspected of being militants to prevent them from traveling abroad or returning home.

But experts say counterterrorism laws can only do so much short of turning Western democracies into police states.

“The real problem is not a legal issue, or something the new laws can fix but marginalized and radicalized people who may in fact not be breaking counterterrorism laws before they commit an act like last night’s siege in Sydney,” said Peter Jennings, executive director of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.

The more sophisticated jihadist groups, like Islamic State, know this, hence its call in September for a supporter to snatch an Australian at random and behead him.

“The idea of a lone actor is something that terrorist groups have been pushing for some time,” said Raffaello Pantucci, director of international security studies at the Royal United Services Institute in London. Islamic State “has been trying capture this mood and it seems to be resonating increasingly. The attack package is a very low-grade effort. You don’t tell anyone about it, and that makes it very difficult for intelligence agencies to pick these people up.”

Yet Mr. Monis gave off ample signals.

Keysar Trad, a spokesman for the Islamic Friendship Association of Australia, said he met with Mr. Monis several times, the first meeting prompted by sharply critical letters that Mr. Monis had sent to the families of Australian service members killed in Afghanistan. Mr. Monis was convicted and sentenced to community service for sending the letters, with the authorities using a rarely invoked law covering postal communications.

Last year, he was charged with being an accessory to the murder of his ex-wife, who had been stabbed and burned to death. Mr. Monis was granted bail and was awaiting trial.

In April, he was also charged with the sexual assault of a woman in western Sydney in 2002. Forty more counts of sexual assault relating to six other women were later added to that case. Mr. Monis also seemed rattled by his inability to reunite with his family in Iran and by what he described as torture by prison guards during a stint in prison, said Mr. Conditsis, the lawyer.

“He had nothing to lose,” Mr. Conditsis said. “He may have been motivated by what he saw as the inevitability of going to prison.”

In a possible insight into the motives for the siege, Mr. Monis posted a message on Sunday to his website in which he lashed out at Australia, Britain and the United States for launching airstrikes against civilians.

“If we stay silent towards the criminals we cannot have a peaceful society,” the message said. “The more you fight with crime, the more peaceful you are.”

As Mr. Abbott said Tuesday: “How can someone who has had such a long and checkered history not be on the appropriate watch lists? And how can someone like that be entirely at large in the community?”

In the end, it was Mr. Monis’s isolation that made him difficult to track.

“If he had been part of a bigger group, he would have come up on the police radar,” Mr. Trad said. “He didn’t.”

Austin Ramzy contributed reporting from Hong Kong.

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At least 126, mostly children, slaughtered as Taliban storm Pakistan school – CNN

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Five assailants killed, Pakistani military spokesman tweets
  • Pakistan Taliban — Tehreek e Taliban Pakistan, or TTP — claim responsibility
  • The attack is on a military school; most of those killed are between 12 and 16

Islamabad, Pakistan (CNN) — The Taliban stormed a military-run school in northwest Pakistan on Tuesday, gunning down at least 126 people — most of them children — in one of the volatile Asian nation’s deadliest attacks.

Hours after the attack, Pakistani troops were still exchanging gunfire with the militants inside the Army Public School and Degree College in the violence-plagued city of Peshawar, about 120 kilometers (75 miles) from the country’s capital, Islamabad.

Two explosions were also heard.

By around 4 p.m. (6 a.m. ET), the Pakistani military had pushed the attackers back to four blocks of the school, military spokesman Gen. Asim BajwaI tweeted. BajwaI added a short time later that five assailants had been killed.

Map: Peshawar, Pakistan Map: Peshawar, Pakistan

Map: Peshawar, PakistanMap: Peshawar, Pakistan

Pakistan takes on Taliban militants

It was unclear, by then, how many of the military school’s hundreds of students were still inside — and how many were dead and alive.

Reports on the scale of the bloodshed spiked dramatically, from a handful to upwards of 100, in a few short hours earlier Thursday. Where the death toll would end up is still uncertain, though it’s sure to be horrific.

Most of those killed were between the ages of 12 and 16, according to Pervez Khattak, chief minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, where Peshawar is located.

Scaling the walls

In a telephone call to CNN, the Pakistan Taliban — Tehreek e Taliban Pakistan, or TTP — said six suicide bombers scaled the walls of the school with orders to kill older students about 10 a.m.

The Taliban said “300 to 400 people are under the custody of the suicide bombers.”

The military had earlier said most students and teachers had been evacuated.

Violent past

Pakistan has seen plenty of violence, much of it involving militants based in provinces such as South Waziristan, North Waziristan and the Khyber Agency — all restive regions in northwest Pakistan, along its border with Afghanistan.

It is the home base the TTP, an organization that has sought to force its conservative version of Islam in Pakistan. They’ve battled Pakistani troops and, on a number of occasions, attacked civilians as well.

Schoolchildren have been among their targets. The most notable among them was Malala Yousafzai, who was singled out by Taliban militants October 9, 2012, and shot while riding from home. The teenage girl survived and, last week, became the youngest ever recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts to promote education and girls rights in Pakistan and beyond.

Deadliest attack since 2007

Still, even by Pakistan and the Taliban’s gruesome standards, Tuesday’s attack may be the most abominable yet.

This is the deadliest incident inside Pakistan since October 2007, when about 139 Pakistanis died and more than 250 others were wounded in an attack near a procession for exiled former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, according to the University of Maryland’s Global Terrorism Database.

As recently as last spring, The Taliban and the Pakistani government were involved in peace talks. The government released 19 Taliban noncombatants in a goodwill gesture.

But talks broke down under a wave of attacks by the Taliban and mounting political pressure to bring the violence under control.

READ: Pakistan offensive leaves ‘ghost towns’

Taliban: Revenge for killing of tribesmen

In September 2013, choir members and children attending Sunday school were among 81 people killed in a suicide bombing at the Protestant All Saints Church of Pakistan. A splinter group of the Pakistan Taliban claimed responsibility for the church attack, blaming the U.S. program of drone strikes in tribal areas of the country.

And for the past few months, the Pakistani military has been conducting a ground offensive aimed at clearing out militants. The campaign has displaced tens of thousands of people.

The military offensive in the region has spurred deadly retaliations.

Mohammed Khurrassani, the TTP spokesman, told CNN that the latest attack was revenge for the killing of hundreds of innocent tribesmen during repeated army operations in provinces including South Waziristan, North Waziristan and the Khyber Agency.

CNN’s Sophia Saifi reported from Islamabad, along with journalists Zahir Shah and Adeel Raja. CNN’s Greg Botelho wrote from Atlanta. CNN’s Paul Armstrong contributed to this report.

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Police hunt for 'armed and dangerous' suspect in six deaths near Philadelphia – Washington Post

A manhunt is underway as police in Pennsylvania search for Bradley William Stone, a suspect in the killing of six relatives whose bodies were found on Monday in towns around Philadelphia. (Reuters)

Authorities on Monday swarmed communities outside of Philadelphia as they searched for a 35-year-old Pennsylvania man suspected of killing six people, according to reports.

Bradley William Stone (Photo courtesy of Montgomery County District Attorney's Office)
Bradley William Stone (Photo courtesy of Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office)

Investigators believe Bradley William Stone of Pennsburg was involved in the incidents at three Montgomery County locations.

Stone’s name was released by the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office on Monday afternoon, after SWAT teams were spotted in Souderton and Pennsburg earlier in the day.

“All of the victims have a familial relationship to Stone,” the office said in a statement.

According to the Associated Press:

On Monday afternoon, police converged on a home in Pennsburg, about 30 miles northwest of Philadelphia, and used a megaphone to try to compel an end to their daylong pursuit of Stone.

“Bradley, this is the police department!” an officer yelled. “Come to the front door with your hands up. You’re under arrest.”

The AP reports that the shootings happened in the neighboring towns of Harleysville, Lansdale and Souderton.

Authorities said Stone, who sometimes uses a cane or walker and might be wearing sand- or green-colored military fatigues, should be considered “armed and dangerous.” They asked that residents stay indoors as the search continued, and keep their doors locked.

“Anyone with information about Stone’s whereabouts is asked to call 9-1-1 immediately,” the statement said. “Do not approach him.”


Police SWAT teams search outside a home in a suburb of Philadelphia. (Brad Larrison/Reuters)

Police move near a home Monday in search of a suspect. (Matt Rourke/AP)

[This post has been updated.]

Sarah Larimer is a general assignment reporter for the Washington Post.

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Gunman in Sydney Had Long History of Run-Ins With the Law – New York Times

A hostage ran to tactical response police officers after she escaped from a cafe under siege in Sydney, Australia, on Monday. Two other captives were killed.
By THOMAS FULLER and MICHELLE INNIS
December 15, 2014

SYDNEY, Australia — The gunman who seized hostages in a downtown Sydney cafe and was killed in a police raid early Tuesday was known to both the police and leaders of Muslim organizations as a deeply troubled man with a long history of run-ins with the law, including a pending case involving the killing of his former wife.

“This guy was on the fringe of the fringe,” said Manny Conditsis, a lawyer who had represented the gunman, Man Haron Monis, in previous criminal cases. “He wasn’t accepted by anybody.”

Mr. Conditsis described the 16-hour seizure of the cafe, which also left two hostages dead, as “the ultimate cry for attention.”

The violence in Sydney occurred two months after a gunman killed a soldier and stormed Parliament in Ottawa, an episode that was a similar mix of personal disaffection and jihadist zealotry.

Flowers laid near the scene of the siege.

The Canadian gunman, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, had criminal convictions in cases that included robbery and drug-related offenses and was a convert to Islam. He shot dead a young corporal guarding the tomb of the unknown soldier at the country’s National War Memorial. Two days before that, a 25-year-old man who had recently adopted radical Islam ran over two Canadian soldiers near Montreal, killing one.

Mr. Monis successfully sought political asylum in Australia two decades ago, the authorities said. According to Mr. Conditsis, the lawyer, Mr. Monis had been a Shiite cleric in Iran. The lawyer said he also believed that Mr. Monis later converted to the Sunni branch of Islam.

The attacks in Canada and the one in Sydney raise questions about the ability of governments to monitor radicalized, would-be killers and prevent them from doing harm.

The similarities among those attacks and one in New York in October, when a man with a hatchet set upon police officers, were the radicalization of people and their isolation from their communities, according to Greg Barton, the director of the Global Terrorism Research Center at Monash University in Melbourne.

The gunman, Man Haron Monis, had been involved in a number of cases, including one over the murder of his former wife. “This guy was on the fringe of the fringe,” said a lawyer who had represented him. Mr. Monis, originally from Iran, successfully sought political asylum in Australia two decades ago.

“There is no easy answer to how you deal with that,” Mr. Barton said. “It is just not possible to put people under 24-hour surveillance unless they are prime suspects.”

The Australian security and counterterrorism authorities do a good job monitoring large-scale operations and individuals within radicalized groups, he said, but “lone wolf operators present a different challenge.”

Mr. Monis entered the Lindt Chocolate Cafe on Martin Place in central Sydney about 9:45 a.m. on Monday and took 17 hostages, five of whom escaped. He had a black flag with white Arabic script, similar to those used by Islamic militants on other continents, which was later displayed in a window of the cafe.

Andrew Scipione, the New South Wales police commissioner, said Mr. Monis was fatally shot during the police raid, which took place shortly after 2 a.m. Tuesday. The police moved to storm the restaurant after gunshots were heard inside, Mr. Scipione said.

“They made the call because they believed that at that time, that if they didn’t enter, there would have been many more lives lost,” the commissioner said. Before the raid began, the police said they believed that no one in the cafe had been hurt.

A police statement released later did not make clear how the two hostages were killed, saying only that “shots were fired during the confrontation.”

Australian news media identified the two dead hostages as Katrina Dawson, 38, a lawyer, and the cafe’s manager, Tori Johnson, 34.

Alarmed by the prospect of Australians traveling to Syria and being radicalized by the civil war there, the government of Tony Abbott this year pushed through Parliament a raft of laws to prevent terrorism at home. The laws bar Australians from joining civil wars in foreign countries, make it easier for the government to confiscate passports, and make it an offense to incite terrorism through social media. Another measure steps up intelligence sharing between the military and the Australian Secret Intelligence Service.

Experts say the new laws were not helpful in the case of the Sydney siege because Mr. Monis did not travel overseas and apparently was not part of a gang or terrorist network. “The new laws don’t add anything to what can be done in advance in a situation like the siege,” said Bret Walker, a barrister who was Australia’s first independent monitor for national security laws.

Keysar Trad, a spokesman for the Islamic Friendship Association of Australia, based in Sydney, said that Mr. Monis had been acting alone and that that had made it difficult for the authorities to track him.

“If he had been part of a bigger group, he would have come up on the police radar” and been under constant surveillance, Mr. Trad said. “He didn’t.”

And yet Mr. Monis had repeatedly come to the attention of community leaders and the authorities.

Mr. Trad said he met with Mr. Monis several times, the first meeting prompted by sharply critical letters that Mr. Monis had sent to the families of Australian service members killed in Afghanistan. He was convicted and sentenced to community service for sending the letters, with the authorities using a rarely invoked law covering postal communications.

Mr. Monis was charged in November 2013 with being an accessory to the murder of his former wife, Noleen Hayson Pal, who had been stabbed and burned to death. A woman, Amirzh Droudis, 34, has been charged with her murder. Mr. Monis was granted bail and was awaiting trial.

“He had nothing to lose,” said Mr. Conditsis, the lawyer. “He may have been motivated by what he saw as the inevitability of going to prison.”

In April, Mr. Monis was also charged with the sexual assault of a woman in western Sydney in 2002. Forty more counts of sexual assault relating to six other women were later added to that case. Mr. Monis also seemed rattled by his inability to reunite with his family in Iran and by what he described as torture by prison guards during a stint in prison, Mr. Conditsis said.

Mr. Monis emigrated to Australia from Iran around 1996 and was previously known as Manteghi Boroujerdi or Mohammad Hassan Manteghi. In a broadcast interview in 2001, he claimed to have worked for Iranian intelligence.

According to Iranwire, a news website run by Iranian expatriates, Mr. Monis had published a book of poetry in Iran.

The state-run Iranian news agency, Fars, quoted a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Marziyeh Afkham, as saying that it had warned the Australian authorities about Mr. Monis.

“The history and mental-psychological conditions of this individual, who sought political asylum in Australia more than two decades ago, had been discussed with Australian authorities many times,” Ms. Afkham was quoted as saying.

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At least 126, most of them children, slaughtered as Taliban storm Pakistan school – CNN

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Pakistan Taliban — Tehreek e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) — claimed responsibility
  • Taliban spokesman says hundreds of people being held inside school
  • Military rescue operation is currently underway

Islamabad, Pakistan (CNN) — The Taliban stormed a military-run school in northwest Pakistan on Tuesday and gunned down at least 126 people, most of them children, in one of the country’s deadliest attacks in recent weeks.

Hours after the attack, the Pakistani military was still exchanging gunfire with the militants inside the Army Public School and Degree College, in the violence-plagued city of Peshawar, about 120 kilometers (75 miles) from the country’s capital, Islamabad.

Two explosions were also heard.

Map: Peshawar, Pakistan Map: Peshawar, Pakistan

Map: Peshawar, PakistanMap: Peshawar, Pakistan

Pakistan takes on Taliban militants

By 3 p.m. Tuesday, it was unclear how many of the hundreds of students were still inside the school.

The Pakistani military said it had pushed the attackers to four blocks of the school, and killed four.

The death toll has steadily risen, and officials fear it will climb higher. The number of injured was upwards of 100.

Most of those who died were between the ages of 12 and 16, said Pervez Khattak, chief minister of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, where Peshawar is located.

Scaling the walls

In a telephone call to CNN, the Pakistan Taliban — Tehreek e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) — said six suicide bombers scaled the walls of the school with orders to kill older students about 10 a.m.

The Taliban said “300 to 400 people are under the custody of the suicide bombers.”

The military had earlier said most students and teachers had been evacuated.

Revenge attack

Mohammed Khurrassani, the TTP spokesman, told CNN the attack was revenge for the killing of hundreds of innocent tribesmen during repeated army operations in provinces including South Waziristan, North Waziristan and the Khyber Agency — all restive regions along Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan.

For the past few months, the Pakistan military has been conducting a ground offensive aimed at clearing out militants in these areas. The campaign has displaced tens of thousands of people.

READ: Pakistan offensive leaves ‘ghost towns’

Northwestern Pakistan is home to loosely governed tribal areas. It’s also a base for foreign fighters and a refuge for members of the Taliban and other militant groups.

Violent past

The military offensive in the region has spurred deadly retaliations.

In September, choir members and children attending Sunday school were among 81 people killed in a suicide bombing at the Protestant All Saints Church of Pakistan. A splinter group of the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the church attack, blaming the U.S. program of drone strikes in tribal areas of the country.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif rushed to Peshawar, declared three days of mourning, and said he would personally oversee the operation to flush out the militants.

Peace falters

As recently as last spring, The Taliban and the Pakistani government were involved in peace talks. The government released 19 Taliban noncombatants in a goodwill gesture.

But talks broke down under a wave of attacks by the Taliban and mounting political pressure to bring the violence under control.

CNN’s Sophia Saifi reported from Islamabad, along with journalists Zahir Shah and Adeel Raja. CNN’s Paul Armstrong wrote from Hong Kong.

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At least 84 children killed in Taliban school attack in Pakistan: official – Reuters

A soldier escorts schoolchildren after they were rescued from from the Army Public School that is under attack by Taliban gunmen in Peshawar, December 16, 2014. REUTERS/Khuram Parvez


(Reuters) – At least 84 children were killed in Pakistan on Tuesday when Taliban gunmen stormed a military-run school in the city of Peshawar, taking hundreds of students and teachers hostage in the bloodiest insurgent attack in the country in years.

Troops surrounded the building and an operation was under way to rescue the remaining children, the army said. A Reuters journalist at the scene said he could hear heavy gunfire from inside the school.

Pervaiz Khattak, Chief Minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the province of which Peshawar is the capital, said 84 children had been killed.

“In CMH (Combined Military Hospital) there are around 60 and there are 24 dead in Lady Reading (hospital),” he told local television channels.

It was not immediately clear whether some or all of the children were killed by the gunmen or in the ensuing battle with Pakistani security forces trying to gain control of the building.

Outside, helicopters hovered overhead and ambulances ferried wounded children to hospital.

An unspecified number of children were still being held hostage in the school, a provincial official said, speaking some three hours after the attack began.

The Pakistani Taliban, who are fighting to topple the government and set up a strict Islamic state, have vowed to step up attacks in response to a major army operation against the insurgents in the tribal areas.

They have targeted security forces, checkpoints, military bases and airports, but attacks on civilian targets with no logistical significance are relatively rare.

In September, 2013, dozens of people, including many children, were killed in an attack on a church, also in Peshawar.

“WE WANT THEM TO FEEL THE PAIN”

The hardline Islamist movement immediately claimed responsibility.

“We selected the army’s school for the attack because the government is targeting our families and females,” said Taliban spokesman Muhammad Umar Khorasani. “We want them to feel the pain.”

The army said in a statement that many hostages had been evacuated but did not say how many.

“Rescue operation by troops underway. Exchange of fire continues. Bulk of student(s) and staff evacuated. Reports of some children and teachers killed by terrorist,” the army said in a brief English-language statement.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif condemned the attack and said he was on his way to Peshawar.

“I can’t stay back in Islamabad. This is a national tragedy unleashed by savages. These were my kids,” he said in a statement.

“This is my loss. This is the nation’s loss. I am leaving for Peshawar now and I will supervise this operation myself.”

Military officials at the scene said at least six armed men had entered the military-run Army Public School. About 500 students and teachers were believed to be inside.

“We were standing outside the school and firing suddenly started and there was chaos everywhere and the screams of children and teachers,” said Jamshed Khan, a school bus driver.

One student inside the school at the time of the attack told a private television channel: “We were in the examination hall when all of sudden firing started and our teachers told us to silently lay on the floor. We remained on the floor for an hour. There was a lot of gunfire.

“When the gunfire died down our soldiers came and guided us out.”

Originally the Taliban said the attackers, including a number of suicide bombers, had been instructed not to target children and shoot only adults.

(Additional reporting by Mehreen Zahra-Malik and Syed Raza Hassan in Islamabad and Saud Mehsud in Dera Ismail Khan; Writing by Katharine Houreld and Maria Golovnina; Editing by Mike Collett-White)

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