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Man Haron Monis: What we know about the Sydney hostage-taker

A 2010 still from a video of Sheikh Man Haron Monis speaking to reporters about the letters he sent the families of deceased soldiers
A 2010 still from a video of Sheikh Man Haron Monis speaking to reporters about the letters he sent the families of deceased soldiers
YouTube/ABC News

Police have identified the assailant who has been holding hostages in a Lindt cafe in downtown Sydney, Australia, for more than 12 hours. His name is Man Haron Monis. He is an Iranian-Australian with a violent criminal record, including charges related to his ex-wife's murder, and he had previously achieved national infamy in Australia for sending taunting letters to the families of killed soldiers. But he has no known connection to extremist groups. Here's what we do and don't know about this situation.

What we know about hostage-taker "Sheikh" Man Haron Monis

— Monis entered the Lindt cafe on Monday morning (Sunday evening U.S. time) carrying a sawed-off shotgun and wearing a bandana inscribed with Arabic writing. He took all of the occupants hostage.

— Monis moved to Australia as a refugee, from Iran, in 1996. He has no known connections to extremist groups but is well known by police for his record. He is a self-styled sheikh and self-employed spiritual adviser and astrologer.

— Monis was charged in 2013 as an accessory before and after the fact to his ex-wife's brutal murder; Noleen Hayson Pal was stabbed and set on fire. He was also charged in 2002 for sexual assault. Some reports say he is facing up to 40 sexual and indecent assault charges.

— Monis' former lawyer said that he believes the hostage-taker is acting alone but that his views have made him at times irrational. "His ideology is just so strong and so powerful that it clouds his vision for common sense and objectiveness," the lawyer told reporters.

— Monis previously achieved minor infamy in Australia for sending letters to the families of soldiers who had died fighting in Afghanistan, telling the families that their loved ones were murderers. He sent a similar letter to the family of an Australian trade official killed in a Jakarta hotel bombing.

— Since the hostage crisis began, Monis has demanded a platform for his views. This has allegedly included having hostages call a local radio host to request air time.

— He was previously a Shia Muslim, as are most Iranians, but later converted to Sunni Islam and changed his name from Mohammad Hassan Manteghi Bourjerdi to Man Haron Monis.

— There are a number of videos of Monis. Some show him speaking to reporters after his letters to the families of soldiers. Others are of his sermons.