An alarming public nightmare right in the middle of the holiday shopping season: a gunman stormed a busy café in the heart of Sydney, Australia early this week, resulting in a 16-hour hostage crisis. Before the standoff concluded, a female captive was shot in the leg, and a city placed on high alert.
The Lindt Chocolate Cafe in Sydney's city centre, where the episode occurred, is a retail front for one of the world's most successful chocolatiers, raising questions about the company's disaster plans and potential liability.
For better or worse, in 21st century situations like these, the first assumption is terrorist activity. However, preliminary investigations suggest the incident was the work of a single disturbed individual, Man Haron Monis. The Iranian-born assailant faces multiple charges in connection with the crisis, and is a suspect in several other pending criminal cases involving sexual assault and accessory to murder.
Multiple reports describe Monis as someone long on the radar of Australian authorities. In response to the madman's apparent religious motivations for the crime, former lawyer Manny Conditsis told the media, "This is a one-off random individual. It's not a concerted terrorism event or act. It's a damaged goods individual who's done something outrageous." The Associated Press reports that "A number of Australian Muslim groups condemned the hostage-taking in a joint statement and said the [act] was a 'testimony of faith that has been misappropriated by misguided individuals.'"
The confusion and panic is understandable. Just a few months ago in September, Australian officials raised the country's terror warning level in response to threats directly and indirectly issued by the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL). Dozens of raids and arrests in Australia's largest cities, including Sydney, followed as a result. And as we previously reported, global cities and major airport hubs are on high alert for possible attacks planned by Al Qaeda to occur over Christmas week.
In conjunction with activities in Sydney, the global and unspecified menace presented by Al Qaeda is leaving many metropolitan areas feeling extra vulnerable this holiday season. HUB 's Risk Services Team cautions high-profile businesses and government strongholds to take extra precautions, and engage qualified experts, to help you protect your assets, employees and customers.
Keep visiting HUB's Crisis Management Center for the latest news and updates. And download the Disaster Management Planning Guide for businesses. From extreme weather to terrorism, disasters are an inescapable part of life, but preparation can help you get back to normal as quickly as possible.