WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is offering U.S. assistance to Australia after the Sydney hostage crisis.

The president called Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott Monday night and offered condolences after a gunman took 17 people hostage inside a cafe.

The White House says Obama expressed confidence the Australian people will emerge from this tragedy stronger.

The White House also says Obama praised the Australian public's embrace of the hashtag #Illridewithyou — offering to ride public transportation with anyone wearing religious garments who feared they would be harassed after the hostage situation.

Authorities say the hostage taker was a 50-year-old Iranian-born, self-styled cleric named Man Haron Monis. He was killed along with two hostages when police rushed in to free the captives.

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