Australia honors victims of deadly siege as Sydney cafe reopens

Sydney Cafe Reopens After Deadly Siege
Sydney Cafe Reopens After Deadly Siege

(Reuters) - A Sydney cafe that was the scene of a siege three months ago reopened on Friday with plaques honoring two victims killed during the 16-hour standoff, which prompted tighter Australian immigration controls and a review of anti-terror laws.

The Lindt Chocolate Cafe opened its doors again with commemorative plaques for cafe manager Tori Johnson, 34, and 38-year-old lawyer Katrina Dawson prominently displayed. Both were killed in the final minutes of the Dec. 15-16 siege.

Johnson was ordered to kneel by gunman Man Haron Monis and then shot in the back of the head. His execution prompted police to storm the cafe and investigations have since shown that Dawson was killed by a ricochet from at least one police bullet.

Monis, a self-styled sheikh with deep grievances against the Australian government and who claimed allegiance with the Islamic State group, was killed by police.

Cafe worker Joel Herat, who was among the 17 hostages held by Monis, returned to work, drawing praise from New South Wales state premier Mike Baird.

"There's a strong sense of comradeship that says we can get through this together, we are stronger together, just as the city has marched forward today," Baird said.

Dozens of Sydney residents gathered before the cafe opened, some clutching flowers in scenes reminiscent of the days after the siege when thousands of mourners left floral tributes in Martin Place in the center of the city's main business district.

"I really believe that bringing some flowers and having a look of the memorial and paying homage to the two people that died is a very worthwhile thing to do," resident Alan Sexton told Reuters.

Four people were wounded in the siege, including a policeman hit in the face with shotgun pellets and a 75-year-old woman who was shot in the shoulder.

(The story was refiled to make a correction in paragraph 5 to the spelling of the worker's name to Herat)

(Editing by Paul Tait)