Sydney siege: 'Similar' people in NZ monitored - PM

Prime Minister John Key says New Zealand intelligence agencies are monitoring individuals with "similar characteristics" to the man behind Sydney's deadly hostage drama.

Three people, including gunman Man Haron Monis, are dead after the Martin Pl siege ended in a volley of gunfire shortly after 2am local time today (4am NZT).

Key said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs this morning were not aware that any Kiwis were involved but it still had imperfect information and was continuing to monitor the situation.

Key said New Zealand's risk assessment had not changed as a result of events across the Tasman though the independent group responsible for monitoring the situation may meet to review that.

And he confirmed that among the 30 to 40 individuals identified as a threat to New Zealand's national security were those who had "not identical but similar characteristics" to Monis.

"If you think about the sort of characteristics of the person that could be attracted to these kinds of actions they need to be often.....disenfranchised, sometimes mentally unwell, perceptible to the sorts of messages that Isis are pumping out by their social media and outreach campaign and believers of the extreme version of Islam.

"When all those characteristics congregate together you have a toxic combination and that's what you see both in Canada and Australia.

"So from New Zealand's point of view there's a very small group of people in that category.

"We do our best to monitor them but as you can see these people in Australia and Canada were all known to the authorities, so it shows you how high the threshold is before someone can actually be detained - and that's the challenge between freedom and liberty and keeping New Zealanders safe," Key said.

Key exchanged texts with Australian prime minister Tony Abbott yesterday and said he would call him today to offer New Zealand's condolences.

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In a speech earlier this year Key revealed that some Islamic State (IS or ISIS) sympathisers in New Zealanders had actively plotted violent actions on New Zealand soil.

"This is the type of risk; either an individual or very small group of individuals who undertake a domestic terror threat because they either can't or don't want to travel to the Middle East.

That's the danger of ISIS. Not only are they incredibly well funded and brutal in what they do but they are actively trying to recruit people through social media, through the internet to undertake domestic terror action, and it's all part of a campaign of intimidation."

Key earlier said it would be naive to think an attack similar to the Sydney siege couldn't happen in New Zealand.

"I think you have to say yes," Key said.

"There is always that risk, there's that risk everywhere in the world. There's the risk that there's a person who is somehow attracted to the teachings and kinds of messages and propaganda that these people are peddling."

NEW ANTI-TERROR LAWS

Last week the "foreign fighters" bill passed into law, 94 votes to 27. It followed a similar tightening of security laws in other countries including Australia and Britain.

The Countering Terrorist Fighters Legislation Bill aims to tackle home-grown terrorism, with the Government arguing the rise of IS in the Middle East increased the risk of an attack here.

The new law allows warrantless surveillance for 24 hours, and includes powers to cancel passports for up to three years, when authorities suspect terrorist activities.

Key said the events in Sydney only showed how dangerous IS was, even if it wasn't directly involved. 

"As I said, they're extremely well-resourced - we believe they're the most highly-resourced terrorist group in the world," he said. 

"They're using the internet in a way that's never been seen before, to build this outreach capacity and to target the very sort of people that we've seen in Australia overnight; to tap into people and to use them as a domestic terror threat type of organisation.

"I don't think we should stop the things that we're doing. I think we should continue to stand up to ISIS and actually, it just demonstrates how dangerous they are." 

The gunman at the centre of the Sydney siege was among a number of homegrown terrorists being targeted by IS, Key said.

The attack was an act of "cowardice", and he said New Zealand's hearts went out to all Australians.

"It's a terrible tragedy isn't it? Our hearts and thoughts go out not only to the families of the victims and the hostages, but actually to all Australians." Key said on Firstline. 

"Australia's our nearest neighbour, they're our greatest mates, we consider ourselves to be very similar in the way we go about our lives. 

"I think Australia will be really hurting, and indeed the world is as we see some people lose their lives in an utter act of cowardice, and so close to Christmas."

But he rejected arguments that the attack might not have happened if Australian troops were not in Iraq.

"Some people want to make that link and make that case, but in the end, what we see is ISIL and these domestic terrorist attacks which is the result of part of their teachings, building in intensity and spreading around the world," he said.  

"You can always make the case that says if Australia and Canada weren't involved in the war against ISIS then they wouldn't be subjected to the these domestic terrorist attacks.

"But the counter-argument to that is that ISIL is growing in its resources and its outreach, and as it gets stronger and more influential then those risks grow exponentially as well."

New Zealand was scoping possibilities of joining Australian troops in a training capacity in the fight against IS. 

Three unarmed military personnel left for Iraq in November to assess how New Zealand could help the fight against the Islamic State group. 

Despite reports New Zealand troops were already in training for deployment, Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee maintained a decision had not yet been made. 

'HEARTFELT SYMPATHY'

Labour acting leader Grant Robertson has offered the party's "heartfelt sympathy" to the people of Sydney.

"Our thoughts are with all those who went through this horrific and traumatic experience," he said.

"We are particularly thinking of the families of all those who have been killed and injured.

"Australian police and emergency teams have handled this crisis with courage and professionalism. We stand alongside all Australians in their determination to carry on with their normal lives in the face of what appears to be the terrifying act of one individual."

 - Stuff

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