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Encyclopedia > Iranian Embassy Siege

The Iranian Embassy Siege of 1980 was a terrorist siege of the Iranian embassy in London, United Kingdom. The siege was ended when British special forces, the Special Air Service (SAS)and the Special Boat Service (SBS), stormed the building in Operation Nimrod. The incident brought the SAS to the world's attention as the whole episode was played out in the media. 1980 (MCMLXXX) was a leap year starting on Tuesday. ... Terrorist redirects here. ... A siege is a military blockade of a city or fortress with the intent of conquering by force or attrition, often accompanied by an assault. ... - Seal on the building of German Embassies. ... This article is about the capital of England and the United Kingdom. ... This article or section does not adequately cite its references or sources. ... The Special Air Service Regiment (SAS) is the principal special forces unit of the British Army, and arguably the most well trained special forces unit in current existence. ... The Special Boat Service (SBS) is the British Royal Navys special forces unit. ...



At 11:30 on 30 April 1980 a six-man terrorist team calling itself the "Democratic Revolutionary Movement for the Liberation of Arabistan" (DRMLA), captured the building in Prince's Gate, South Kensington/Knightsbridge, central London. April 30 is the 120th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar (121st in leap years), with 245 days remaining. ... 1980 (MCMLXXX) was a leap year starting on Tuesday. ... The junction with Old Brompton Road and Pelham Street, outside South Kensington tube station. ... Knightsbridge is a street and district spanning the City of Westminster and theRoyal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, London notable for its eclectic mix of rich, famous, and international residents including several billionaires Roman Abramovich, oligarchs from Russia, China and India, international businessman Lord Marshall of Knightsbridge, trend setters Charles...

Initially the terrorists demands were for the autonomy of an oil-rich region in southern Iran known as Khuzestan; later they demanded the release of ninety-one of their comrades, alleged political prisoners of the Iranian regime, held in Iranian jails. Only after the incident was over did it become known that Iraq had trained and armed the gunmen in order to try to embarrass Iran. Map showing Khuzestan in Iran Domes like this are quite common in Khuzestan province. ...

Twenty-six hostages were taken when the gunmen first stormed the building, but five were released over the following few days. Police negotiators attempted to mollify the radicals with supplies of food and cigarettes, and on the third day a statement by the terrorists was broadcast on the BBC following threats to kill a hostage. The terrorist unit's Iraqi handler had promised the group that the Jordanian Ambassador would intervene to provide safe passage, but when it became clear this was not going to happen, the situation in the embassy deteriorated. Police often train to recover hostages taken by force, as in this exercise For the 2005 film, see Hostage (film). ... Negotiation is the process whereby interested parties resolve disputes, agree upon courses of action, bargain for individual or collective advantage, and/or attempt to craft outcomes which serve their mutual interests. ... The British Broadcasting Corporation, usually known as the BBC (and also informally known as the Beeb or Auntie) is the largest broadcasting corporation in the world in terms of audience numbers, employing 26,000 staff in the United Kingdom alone and with a budget of more than GB£4 billion...

On the sixth day of the siege the terrorists killed a hostage — press attache Abbas Lavasani — and threw his body outside. This marked a crucial escalation of the situation and prompted Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's decision to proceed with the rescue operation. The order to deploy a unit of the Counter Revolutionary Warfare (CRW) wing of the SAS had been given in the first few hours of the siege. When the first hostage was shot, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner passed a note to the Ministry of Defence, stating this was now a 'military operation'. The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is, in practice, the political leader of the the United Kingdom. ... Margaret Hilda Thatcher, Baroness Thatcher, LG, OM, PC (born October 13, 1925), former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, in office from 1979 to 1990. ... Counter Revolutionary Operations is a term used to describe military operations against irregular guerrilla forces such as the British military has been engaged in including: Modern Iraq after the end of the conventional phase The Troubles in Northern Ireland post 1969 Cyprus Kenya Mau Mau Operations in the Malayan Emergency... The Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis (usually just referred to as the Metropolitan Police Commissioner or, more colloquially, as the Met Commissioner) is the head of the Metropolitan Police Service in London. ... The Ministry of Defence (MOD) is the United Kingdom government department responsible for implementation of government defence policy and the headquarters of the British Armed Forces. ...

The assault

In preparation for storming the building, the landing paths of planes into Heathrow Airport were lowered and the gas board began noisy drilling in an adjoining street to provide noise cover as the SAS moved into position. Prior to the attack the terrorists and hostages had been observed with fiber optic probes that had been inserted through the shared wall of an adjoining building. Microphones were used to eavesdrop from the building next door. The raid had been rehearsed in a mock-up of the building at the SAS regimental headquarters in Hereford. London Heathrow Airport (IATA airport code: LHR, ICAO airport code: EGLL, and often simply Heathrow) is the United Kingdoms busiest and best-connected airport. ... Optical fibers An optical fiber (or fibre) is a glass or plastic fiber designed to guide light along its length by confining as much light as possible in a propagating form. ... Statistics Population: 50,154 Ordnance Survey OS grid reference: SO515405 Administration District: Herefordshire Region: West Midlands Constituent country: England Sovereign state: United Kingdom Other Ceremonial county: Herefordshire Historic county: Herefordshire Services Police force: West Mercia Fire and rescue: {{{Fire}}} Ambulance: West Midlands Post office and telephone Post town: HEREFORD Postal...

The assault started at 19:23 hours on May 5, 1980 (a Bank Holiday Monday) at the rear of the building with the detonation of a charge in a stairwell, twenty-three minutes after the dead hostage had been thrown from the building. Simultaneously, electrical power was cut to the building. Some SAS men entered the embassy from the roof, using explosive devices to blow in the window frames. Stun grenades were used to disorientate the terrorists during the attack. May 5 is the 125th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar (126th in leap years). ... 1980 (MCMLXXX) was a leap year starting on Tuesday. ... // For the music composition Bank Holiday, see Albert Ketèlbey. ... For the alcoholic beverage sold in New Orleans, see hand grenade (drink). ...

Five of the six terrorists were killed and nineteen hostages were saved. One of the terrorists was later found having 76 shots in his corpse. One hostage was killed by a terrorist during the attack.

The news coverage thrust journalist Kate Adie into the limelight. It was also a breakthrough for women journalists in general, as until that time warzones and other hotspots were the preserve of male reporters. As that afternoon's duty reporter, Adie was first on the scene as the SAS stormed the embassy. The BBC interrupted coverage of the World Snooker Championships and Adie reported live and unscripted to one of the largest news audiences ever, whilst crouched behind a car door. At forty-five minutes, this became one of the longest "news flashes" (ITN call it an open ender) in British television history.[citation needed] This does not adequately cite its references or sources. ... Kate Adie (born September 19, 1945) is a British journalist. ... For other uses, see Conflict (disambiguation). ... The World Championship is the climax of snookers annual calendar and the most important snooker event of the year in terms of prestige, prize money and world ranking points. ...


There was some controversy over the killing of a few of the gunmen, especially Shai and Makki. They were guarding the Iranian hostages, and towards the end of the raid the hostages persuaded the gunmen to surrender. Hostages witnessed them throw down their weapons and sit on the floor with their hands on their heads (weapons being thrown out of a window and a white flag were seen by video cameras outside).

Dadgar, a hostage at the time (confirmed by two other hostages) said (of the SAS):

"They then took the two terrorists, pushed them against the wall and shot them. They wanted to finish their story. That was their job." ...[they might have] "had something in their pockets but certainly had no weapons in their hands at the time."[1]

It was reported a long time after the siege that when the last surviving gunman was found amongst the hostages, he was about to be led back into the building by one of the soldiers, presumably to be shot. However, the soldier was prevented when it was pointed out that the world's media were watching.

At a coroner's inquest the SAS were cleared by a jury. One of the soldiers said that he thought Makki was going for a gun, and another said he thought Shai had a grenade and shot him in the back of the neck. A coroner is either the presiding officer of a special court, a medical officer or an officer of law responsible for investigating deaths, particularly those happening under unusual circumstances. ... An inquest is a formal process of state investigation. ... This article or section does not adequately cite its references or sources. ...

Margaret Thatcher and her husband Denis paid a visit to the SAS at Regent's Park barracks after the incident to thank them. "Tom", one of the SAS soldiers present, quotes Denis Thatcher as saying they had partially failed: Sir Denis Thatcher, 1st Baronet, MBE, TD (May 10, 1915 – June 26, 2003) was a businessman, and the husband of the former British Prime Minister, Baroness Thatcher. ... This article is about Regents Park in London. ...

"He had a big grin on his face and said, 'You let one of the bastards live.' We failed in that respect."[1]

Fowzi Nejad was convicted for his part in the siege, and was sentenced to life imprisonment. He became eligible for parole in 2005. With the date of his parole nearing, commentators noted that the UK government may be unable to deport him to Iran on his release (as he may face torture or execution there) and thus could be forced to grant him political asylum. PC Trevor Lock, on guard at the embassy when it was taken, condemned this, but one of the hostages, Dadgar, told the BBC: Life imprisonment is a sentence of imprisonment for a serious crime, nominally for the entire remaining life of the prisoner, but in fact for a period which varies between jurisdictions: many countries have a maximum possible period of time (usually seven years) a prisoner may be incarcerated, or require the... Parole can have different meanings depending on the area and judiciary system. ... Deportation is the expelling of someone from a country. ... Torture is defined by the United Nations Convention Against Torture as any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he... Power lines leading to a trash dump hover just overhead in El Carpio, a Nicaraguan refugee camp in Costa Rica Under international law, a refugee is a person who is outside his/her country of nationality or habitual residence; has a well-founded fear of persecution because of his/her... A constable is a person holding a particular office, most commonly in law enforcement. ...

"I personally forgive him, yes. I think he has been punished – fair enough."[2][3]

In the coming years of her premiership of Britain, Margaret Thatcher was to use The SAS men she called "her boys" time and again including one occasion when they were dispatched to break up a riot in a Scottish prison.

See also

This is a list of hostage crises by date. ... Who Dares Wins is a 1982 British movie starring Lewis Collins, Judy Davis and Edward Woodward. ...

External links

  • Siege at the Iranian Embassy (BBC News)
  • BBC On this Day: 5th May 1980
  • Six days that shook Britain by Peter Taylor, The Guardian, July 24, 2002
  • Operation "Nimrod" (in Italian)
  • Aerial View of Iranian Embassy at Google Maps

BBC News Online logo The BBC News Website in February 2006. ... The Guardian is a British newspaper owned by the Guardian Media Group. ... July 24 is the 205th day (206th in leap years) of the year in the Gregorian calendar, with 160 days remaining. ... For album titles with the same name, see 2002 (album). ...


  1. ^ a b Six days that shook Britain by Peter Taylor, The Guardian, July 24, 2002
  2. ^ Embassy gunman could get asylum (BBC News)
  3. ^ Dilemma for Clarke over Iranian embassy siege survivor, by Adrian Addison, The Guardian, February 20, 2005

The Guardian is a British newspaper owned by the Guardian Media Group. ... July 24 is the 205th day (206th in leap years) of the year in the Gregorian calendar, with 160 days remaining. ... For album titles with the same name, see 2002 (album). ... BBC News Online logo The BBC News Website in February 2006. ... The Guardian is a British newspaper owned by the Guardian Media Group. ... February 20 is the 51st day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. ... 2005 (MMV) was a common year starting on Saturday of the Gregorian calendar. ...


  • BBC documentary "SAS Embassy Siege", directed by Bruce Goodison, produced by Louise Norman (Best Historical Documentary, Grierson Awards 2003).
  • The 1982 movie Who Dares Wins was based on this incident.
  • The song Crossfire from the 1980 album "A" by Jethro Tull closely describes this incident.



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