Category: Man Haron Monis

How Martin Place siege killer Man Haron Monis went from being a dodgy travel agent in Iran to becoming a terrorist

Who Was the Gunman Behind the Sydney Siege?

http://www.news.com.au/video/id-xuYXRhcjozVgKi5qDKCDPyt6rprR2QtL/Who-Was-the-Gunman-Behind-the-Sydney-Siege?

AFTER a week of sitting in his Nissan spying around-the-clock on a house across the road in Tehran’s north, not for the first time Sassan Khalebani pondered how his life had come to this.

First there were the strange visits, then the abusive abrupt telephone calls. The previous week members of several local families began trying to smash the windows and glass tabletops of his small but busy travel agency in central Tehran in a rowdy melee that was threatening to turn more violent.

REVEALED: How twisted Man Haron Monis invaded our shores

SYDNEY SIEGE: 10 flaws that led to one an horrific day

He knew of course how it all began — Man Haron Monis, formerly known as Mohammad-Hassan Manteghi, whose house in Sa’adat Abad in north Tehran he was now sitting outside, in the hope of finding him and getting some answers. He never would.

Monis’ arrival at the Rahelenoor Tour and Travel Agency had been as sudden as his disappearance with the lifesavings of dozens of clients, which set in train a new life that would end half a world away in the Lindt Café in Martin Place in central Sydney.

As a young man ... Man Haron Monis who was born Mohammad-Hassan Manteghi Borujerdi. Pictu

As a young man … Man Haron Monis who was born Mohammad-Hassan Manteghi Borujerdi. Picture: Supplied Source: Supplied

A News Corp Australia investigation into Monis’ life in Iran reveals new details that suggest there may have been more to Monis beyond crazed idealist.

At the time he “disappeared”, he was managing director of the travel agency and a businessman with both high-level political and religious contacts. A father of two girls, he was also suspected of being an Iranian intelligence officer tasked with bringing disgrace and financial ruin to political opponents. He also stole far more money than has previously been reported.

MAN MONIS, A SHADY TRAVEL AGENT

Monis came to Rahelenoor travel agency as managing director in 1996. Nobody was really sure where he came from but staff were told he was now the new boss. At that time there were about a hundred such agencies operating in Tehran and it was a busy hub, offering not just flights but visas for those wanting to leave the republic to start a new life. Monis was at the time said to be a religious figure, having performed various studies, and was also married to Zahra Mobasheri, a university professor who tied the knot with him when she was still a teen in 1983. Mobasheri’s father Habibolah was deputy head of the prestigious Imam Sadiq University, a pivotal institution for the Iranian regime’s top cadre and officials from the State’s intelligence agency. Habibolah was known to be influential in the Iranian government.

A change of managing director was not seen as unusual and staff were told their new boss was a well connected 32-year-old father of two girls aged 7 and 8 years.

Double life ... Man Haron Monis was born Mohammad-Hassan Manteghi Borujerdi. This was the

Double life … Man Haron Monis was born Mohammad-Hassan Manteghi Borujerdi. This was the photo that was hanging on the wall of his office at the travel agency in Tehran where he was managing director. Picture: Supplied Source: Supplied

He occupied the top floor of the Shariati Street agency and had little to do with staff at the counters downstairs but worked 8am to 5pm, Saturday through to Thursday.

“He was very normal, smiley, would come in and say good morning to everyone and ‘where is my tea, someone bring me my tea’, normal things like this,” Khalebani recalled.

“He just went upstairs, oversaw business. The owner of the business knew of him from another religious connection and was told he would make a good managing director for the company. You could not imagine what he was really doing and was about to escape, nobody could believe he was going to escape.”

Calculated man ... Man Haron Monis had plans years ago. Here, police are depicted at the

Calculated man … Man Haron Monis had plans years ago. Here, police are depicted at the scene of the siege in Martin Place. Picture: Toby Zerna Source: News Corp Australia

Monis was planning his exit from almost the moment he took over the business. At the same time he was putting up a framed photograph of himself on the wall announcing his arrival, he was already looking to a rival travel agency to book him passage to Australia.

For the seven months he worked at the agency he made numerous appointments with families wishing to migrate to other countries, mostly Europe and also possibly Australia. Khalebani said Monis was dealing with 14 families, a total of 40 family members, who were selling off their assets for a new life abroad and that he had taken from them 750 million Iranian rials, the equivalent of about AUD$550,000 on rates of the day. This figure is considerably higher than the US$200,000 previously reported theft of life savings in exchange for visas, fees and start up costs overseas.

Shedding more light ... Sassan Khalebani worked with Man Haron Monis in the Tehran travel

Shedding more light … Sassan Khalebani worked with Man Haron Monis in the Tehran travel agency where he stole a fortune to start his new life in Australia. Picture: Ella Pellegrini Source: Supplied

“He just talked, ‘OK if you want to go to Australia I can do it’, ‘you want Europe I can do it’, it was like this for six or seven months,” recalled one customer. Monis also explained that the owner of the agency, well known political figure Rasoul Montajebnia, had personal relationships with several ambassadors and consulates.

But Monis made no attempt to apply for any visas, according to official Iranian immigration papers, which show in July 1996 he had applied for himself through another travel agency, Vala Tours, for a working visa to Australia with a 4.2 rial (AUD$3000) return ticket issued two months later on September 9. He flew out on Iranian Airlines flight 840 on October 26 from Tehran to Kuala Lumpur then onto Sydney on Malaysian Airlines MH123. As a condition of the visa, he had booked a return ticket from Sydney departing on November 26, a section he was never going to take. He told those at that agency he would be back after he concluded some business deals and investment talks.

Deceptive and evil ... Sheikh Man Haron Monis used others to achieve his personal goals.

Deceptive and evil … Sheikh Man Haron Monis used others to achieve his personal goals. Picture: AAP Source: AAP

Three weeks after Monis was due to return, customers arrived at the agency seeking their visas.

“They sold everything they had, house, furniture everything to give money to this man to start a life somewhere in another country and be a resident there. Most of them were heading to Europe,” Khalebani recalled.

“We didn’t know he was going out of the country. One week, two week, one month waiting for this man but he didn’t show up himself and we see that everybody come asking ‘what happened to our visa?”

Monis used the name of respected agency boss Montajebnia and his stamped signature on all the documents, thereby directly linking him to all transactions. When he could not be found, it was Montajebnia who was then liable for their losses and the target of the customer’s anger.

MONIS ‘BEHIND POLITICAL CONSPIRACY’

Montajebnia had been a relatively outspoken vice president of the reformist opposition Etemad Melli political party in Iran. Two colleagues, including the party president Mehdi Karroubi and Mir Hossein Mousavi, were candidates against the ruling president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the 2009 election but were beaten in the first round of voting which gave Ahmadinejad a second term. The pair protested and claimed the results were rigged. They were promptly arrested and have been under house arrest ever since, including time in jail cells and being held in a ‘safe house’ belonging to the intelligence services with limited access to friends and family, telephones and TV. Their wives, also active vocal party members, were also placed under house arrest. Earlier this month Iranian Judiciary Chief Ayatollah Sadeq Amoli Larijanoi said a decision would now be made to prosecute them in court. The death penalty for acting contrary to national security has been suggested.

ISLAMIC STATE: Lauds Man Monis’ attack in its own magazine

Chilling CCTV footage .... shows Monis during the terrifying Martin Place siege Picture:

Chilling CCTV footage …. shows Monis during the terrifying Martin Place siege Picture: Supplied Source: Supplied

Karroubi and Montajebnia were great friends and very close when they were both the equivalent of MPs. Karroubi particularly was seen as an influential figure in Iran, having twice been the chairman of the parliament in the early 1990s and again from 2000 to 2004.

At the time Monis came to work at Montajebnia’s travel and migration agency, it was a major source of revenue for the party with funds raised going towards the election prospects of Etemad Melli’s senior figures, including Montajebnia, Karroubi and Mousavi.

This is where a suspected conspiracy exists among Etemad Melli supporters, who believe Monis was a plant in the business to bring it to ruin and thereby so too a financial stream for the political reformist group.

“He was sent to attack the agency so they (candidates) would not go up, rise in popularity,” said one who asked not to be named.

“Someone wanted to make problem for this society (political party) and this man make the problem. They wanted to be the top, go to the top of government because they are against the government for some political issues but Manteghi (Monis) came inside and made problem for this group.”

UNVEILED: Inside Man Haron Monis’ Sydney home

Horrific ordeal ... a moment captured on film from the Martin Place siege. Picture: Chann

Horrific ordeal … a moment captured on film from the Martin Place siege. Picture: Channel 7 Source: Channel 7

It was widely known that Monis had studied at Sadiq University, the main training ground for Iran’s intelligence service. Some believed he was from the Right of politics and a supporter of the government so thought it strange he would be employed by the Left reformist party and even to have attended Karroubi rallies.

Khalebani, 42, said he was not sure whether Monis was a plant but said he certainly made trouble for his employers, not just in stealing the money but also by dobbing in Montajebnia’s son to the authorities for trying to skip his national military service. The tactic was to remove the son who was to see the day-to-day runnings of the operation and report to his father. The son was caught by military authorities and was not in the business for the months Monis carried out the theft.

MONIS ‘LIED’ ABOUT RELIGION

Monis had performed religious studies but those spoken to by News Corp Australia scoffed at suggestions he was any sort of leading cleric. Simply completing such studies affords some status but not to lead others.

Still no-one could believe he could have fled the country the way he did.

Police were called and by January 1996 had barred him from leaving the country — even though he had already fled. Members of the 12 defrauded families trashed the travel agency and fought employees. Montajebnia’s business collapsed and he had to sell many assets, as well as lose his position as head of the local mosque. Still politically active, he now teaches at a local university.

The Montajebnia family declined to comment but confirmed it had struggled to pay back debts incurred by “the thief”, even in instalments to some of the victims. Montajebnia’s family had taken on the debt, primarily his son, and through a bank loan to pay back the 14 families was still in debt to the bank.

MONIS BURIAL: ‘Just dump him at sea’, Muslim leaders say

Self-styled ... Man Monis chained to a railing and waving Australian flags and holding se

Self-styled … Man Monis chained to a railing and waving Australian flags and holding self made signs. Picture: Cameron Richardson Source: News Corp Australia

Monis’ wife Mobasheri said his acts had brought shame to the family through his deception and he was a traitor to both his family and country. She said he was cruel, unhinged and a wife beater who terrorised their children, and she wanted to divorce him many times.

Despite being abandoned it would be five years before she formally divorced him even though she could have made the application after six months of his absence.

Professor Mohsen Alviri, an associate from Monis’ university days and now Professor in Tehran’s, Bagher Al-Oloom University, said Monis marriage was welcomed by her father who was impressed by the intelligent and religious man. But he, Alviri, later saw how Monis was prone to huge mood swings and could be friendly one minute and weird, angry and dismissive the next. He surmised that he simply had an ugly side which eventually went all bad.

VILE VIDEOS: Amirah Droudis appears on YouTube

On bail ... Amirah Droudis was charged with the murder of Monis' ex-wife. Picture Cameron

On bail … Amirah Droudis was charged with the murder of Monis’ ex-wife. Picture Cameron Richardson Source: News Corp Australia

Up close ... Amirah Droudis, Man Haron Monis’ current wife who is still alive. Picture: S

Up close … Amirah Droudis, Man Haron Monis’ current wife who is still alive. Picture: Supplied Source: Supplied

Such was the dysfunctional marriage, there was an intervention and direct counselling by the influential Mahdavi Kani, former Iranian prime minister and interior minister and a founder in the Establishment during the regime of Ayatollah Khomeini.

It was another impressive connection, which appears to contradict the Iranian Government’s explanation that Monis was not connected to anyone of authority and was just a deranged fraudster, as the apparatus claimed in a public statement earlier this month.

HOW IRAN DISCOVERED WHERE MONIS FLED

Four years after the theft, in December 2000, a small news item with a photo on the front page of the UK-based Persian newspaper Kayhan London depicted Monis chaining himself to the gates of the NSW State Parliament in a protest. For many back in Iran it was the first sighting or knowledge of him since he disappeared.

Revelation ... Monis’ former colleagues and victims learned he had fled to Sydney through

Revelation … Monis’ former colleagues and victims learned he had fled to Sydney through this Persian newspaper, Kayhan London. Picture: Supplied Source: Supplied

His name was different but he was widely recognised by his local community.His former work colleagues still talk about the day they found out he was in Australia, both from the shock of finding him but also because of his crazy protest act. It was not normal, he was not like that when he worked with them.

“None of us could believe it was him,” Khalebani said. “Now people say he was crazy but he wasn’t when he worked with us. Australia did wrong here.

“If they had sent him back to Iran when the authorities, police, Interpol, had asked for him, it was better, but they didn’t do it and they said he had residence in Australia and they couldn’t give him back … and closed the file. And then Sydney happened.”

Unforgettable images ... a hostage runs from the Lindt Chocolate cafe in Martin Place, Sy

Unforgettable images … a hostage runs from the Lindt Chocolate cafe in Martin Place, Sydney. Picture: AAP Source: AAP

Damaged goods as weapons:

To those mourning the loss of a loved one, a friend or colleague, determining whether the callous violence of Man Haron Monis was an act of terrorism or merely the all-too-familiar crime of murder-suicide can bring little solace.

Unfortunately, at times during this past week the terrorism question appeared to be cast in terms of a classic left–right divide. This question is too important to be occluded by petty politics. If we are to do our best to reduce the likelihood of such incidents re-occurring, we need to grapple with the question of who Monis was and what the motivations behind his actions were.

The matter of why Monis was released on bail after being charged with a number of violent offences, including as an accessory to the murder of his ex-wife, Noleen Hayson Pal, is one of the most troubling questions arising from this tragedy. It is made all the more poignant by the fact that Pal had told police that Monis had threatened to kill her and she was in fear of her life. Police took this threat seriously enough to lay charges of intimidation but he challenged this and in May 2012 was acquitted.

Monis had also been charged with more than 40 cases of sexual assault against women who had come to his “spiritual healing clinic”.

The victims of Monis’ abusive behaviour were not limited, however, to those who walked through his door, seeking help. In September 2013, he was convicted on 12 counts of misusing the postal service to cause offence after sending abusive letters between 2007 and 2009 to the grieving families of soldiers who had fought and died in Afghanistan. After his conviction, he chained himself to the railing on the steps outside the court and proclaimed: “This pen is my gun and these words are my bullets, I fight by these weapons against oppression to promote peace.”

The Friday before Monday’s siege, Monis had lost a High Court appeal to overturn that conviction.

For years, Monis had terrorised in the name of justice while seeking to present himself as a freedom fighter and peace activist. He had a long history of extremist religious views and strong political opinions expressed in a way intended to offend, to hurt and to draw attention to himself. At times, he championed the Shia group Hezbollah and once registered the business phone number “1300-4-JIHAD”. One of his first actions on Monday after ordering the cafe doors be locked was to force his hostages at gunpoint to hold a black banner in the front window of the Lindt cafe. The words on the banner were simply the Muslim creed of faith, but the colour and style of the banner were intended to imply a link with Jihadi terrorist groups, and in particular with the Islamic State (IS) movement. Any ambiguity about this disappeared when he demanded, through frightened hostages forced to make phone calls to multiple media outlets, that he be brought an IS flag (with the same words but distinctive calligraphy), and that the prime minister acknowledge he was conducting the siege in the name of IS.

The man who for years had hubristically, and, it appears, completely without foundation, described himself as an Islamic cleric had only days before the siege proclaimed on his website, since taken down, that he had turned his back on his Iranian Shia heritage (“I used to be a Rafidi [one who rejects], but not any more. Now I am a Muslim, Alhamdu Lillah”) and had embraced both Sunni Islam and the Islamic State, swearing allegiance to the latter’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Almost all of Monis’ actions can be explained in terms of delusion, anger and narcissism. Just as in the case of Norwegian far-right lone wolf Anders Behring Breivik who in 2011 killed eight people, this does not mean that Man Haron Monis was not a terrorist.

Since September, IS has been calling on thousands of followers in countries all around the world, including Australia, to, in effect “attack the Crusaders whatever you are with whatever you have”. The first official statement came on 21 September, when in a rambling but evocative audio message IS spokesman Sheik al-Adnani declared:

If you can kill a disbelieving American or European – especially the spiteful and filthy French – or an Australian, or a Canadian, or any other disbeliever from the disbelievers waging war, including the citizens of the countries that entered into a coalition against the Islamic State, then rely upon Allah, and kill him in any manner or way however it may be. Do not ask for anyone’s advice and do not seek anyone’s verdict . . . If you are not able to find an IED or a bullet, then single out the disbelieving American, Frenchman, or any of their allies. Smash his head with a rock, or slaughter him with a knife, or run him over with your car, or throw him down from a high place, or choke him, or poison him.

In mid October the fourth issue of the official IS magazine, Dabiq, repeated this call for lone wolf attacks in the west:

Every Muslim should get out of his house, find a crusader, and kill him. It is important that the killing becomes attributed to patrons of the Islamic State who have obeyed its leadership. This can easily be done with anonymity. Otherwise, crusader media makes such attacks appear to be random killings. Secrecy should be followed when planning and executing any attack. The smaller the numbers of those involved and the less the discussion beforehand, the more likely it will be carried out without problems. One should not complicate the attacks by involving other parties, purchasing complex materials, or communicating with weak-hearted individuals.

IS represents one of the most dangerous manifestations yet of jihadi terrorism. This latest iteration of a movement that has been evolving for more than three decades differs from al-Qaeda and other affiliates that pre-date it: it is indiscriminate in its recruitment. Whereas al-Qaeda and most modern terrorist movements have been discerning about those allowed into their inner circles, and committed to rigorous, lengthy programs of indoctrination, training and filtering, IS has put the word out among those crossing the Turkish border into Syria that it will take all-comers. As a result, its ranks have swollen to more than 15,000 foreign fighters. At the same time, IS is actively seeking out the lost, lonely and vulnerable, those who might be dismissed as “damaged goods”.

Seasoned al-Qaeda fighters and radicalised former Iraqi officers are holding captive eight million people in a territory the size of Great Britain. Within this disciplined leadership elite, one of the nine ministries that governs IS’s day-to-day operations is its media council. This body produces slick, professionally edited videos and powerful online publications through which it has been calling for lone wolf attacks around the world. IS also has a very long tail of foreign fighters and an international network of recruiters and supporters, most of whom are neither experienced nor professional but are encouraged to contribute through their own social media postings, and their own acts of terror.

To young men it wants to recruit as fighters or to the others it hopes to persuade to act in its name, the message is the same: the world has looked down on you and rejected you and people say that you amount to nothing. But join us and you will be a hero.

We’ve seen this redemptive narrative at work in the example of Mohammad Ali Baryalei, the former Kings Cross sex club spruiker, and the other young Australians he recruited to fight in Syria and Iraq. Islamic States’ call for lone-wolf attacks also appears to be what drove Abdul Numan Haider to violently confront two police officers in the car park outside Endeavour Hills Police Station on 23 September 2014, the day after Islamic State’s spokesperson Sheikh Abu Mohammad al-Adnani had issued the first of IS’s many calls to action.

The IS call to action also seems to be behind the actions of Martin Couture-Rouleau, who on 20 October lined up his car in a Quebec parking lot and ran down two uniformed soldiers, killing Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent. Similarly, the actions of Michael Zehaf-Bibeau in Ottawa two days later, when he shot dead Corporal Nathan Cirillo, a ceremonial guard on duty at the war memorial, and then attempted to storm Canada’s parliament seem to be linked to this call to arms. And it seems likely that Zale Thompson in New York, who attacked four police officers with a hatchet on 23 October, was responding to the same message. All three attackers were troubled individuals, angry and alienated, who appear to have found larger purpose in responding to the call of IS.

It would appear that Monis was pushed down the levels of an ASIO’s terrorism risk-assessment matrix because he was unconnected and without broad influence: a deranged loner not plugged in to any of the known networks. The rapid evolution of IS and its recent incitement to lone-wolf attacks are forcing us to think differently. It is now clear that IS is targeting disgruntled loners in its call for action. Unlike most previous terrorist groups, it is not fussed about filtering out troubled and unstable individuals for its attacks in the west. It does not need them to follow orders – so long as when they act on their own they act in the name of IS. In fact, IS is in the business of turning “damaged goods” into weapons. Sadly, there are no easy ways to meet the threat of lone-wolf terrorism. Without the conventional patterns of chatter between cell members and within terror networks, and of long months of preparation, the chances of early detection are greatly reduced.

So what can we do? Firstly, we need to understand the nature of the threat and recognise that attacks like those seen in Sydney are likely to be repeated. Secondly, we need to redouble our efforts to work with the communities and groups best positioned to be aware of individuals who represent a threat and/or are in danger of being radicalised. Haider was just one of around 70 young men whose passports had been withheld, many at the request of their families. We need to work with every one of these individuals, with their families, with community groups, and with those who have returned from fighting abroad, and with everyone else whose homes have been raided or otherwise cross the path of the authorities. Such case management interventions might not have stopped last week’s attack but they could stop future ones.

More than ever we need to work to ensure that interagency co-operation and timely sharing of intelligence between ASIO, the Australia Federal Police and state police forces is supported and nurtured at every level. Suddenly, it’s just become a whole lot harder.