Tributes were paid Tuesday to the two people killed in the Sydney café siege as police launched an inquiry into what led the gunman to strike at the heart of Australia’s largest city.

Local media reports identified the two victims as 34-year-old Tori Johnson, the manager of the Lindt Chocolate Café where the 16-hour siege took place, and lawyer Katrina Dawson, 38.

The gunman, named as Iranian refugee Man Haron Monis, was also killed when police commandos stormed the cafe in Martin Place early Tuesday morning.

At a nearby pedestrian area, hundreds of bouquets were placed, including flowers from Prime Minister Tony Abbott and his wife Margie, and people queued to leave notes of condolence. On Sydney’s famous harbor bridge and government buildings across New South Wales, flags flew at half-mast.

Other floral tributes were attached to the screens erected around the crime scene.

Speaking at a press conference, Abbott described Johnson and Dawson as “decent, good people” who became involved in the “sick fantasy of a deeply disturbed individual.”

He said Monis was not on a terrorist watch list. "How can someone who has had such a long and chequered history, not be on the appropriate watch lists and how can someone like that be entirely at large in the community?” the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper reported Abbott as saying.

As details emerged of the attacker, who was known to police as an extremist and criminal, Australians tried to soothe potential tensions by supporting Muslims fearing a backlash after the siege, in which the gunman forced hostages to hold up a black Islamic flag similar to those brandished by jihadist groups.

The #illridewithyou hashtag spread across social media, racking up nearly 120,000 retweets on Twitter within hours. The campaign seemed to have started when one Sydney traveler noticed a Muslim woman taking off her headscarf and messaged her support for Muslims using public transport.

As well as investigating Monis, police are also examining the circumstances around the storming of the café. Police would not confirm any details about the final moments of the siege, which began Monday morning and involved 17 hostages.

New South Wales Assistant Police Commissioner Catherine Burn refused to say if Monis had killed the two hostages or confirm reports that Johnson was shot as he grappled with Monis, who was reportedly armed with a shotgun.

She said police moved in after “shots were heard” and praised the hostages for acting “courageously.”

A police officer hit in the face by shotgun pellets during the raid has been discharged from hospital and three others who suffered gunshot wounds were in a stable condition, New South Wales Police said in a statement.

Monis, a self-styled Muslim cleric who sought political asylum in Australia in 1996, had a history of religiously extremism but officials say there is no evidence of a link to international jihadist movements. He was described as “unstable” by Burn.

Monis was on bail over charges of being an accessory to the murder of his ex-wife and also faced more than 40 sexual and indecent assault charges.

A police anti-terrorist operation, launched in September following an alleged plot to kill a member of the public, was now in "full force," Burn said.

Anadolu Agency