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Operation Nimrod   >   What Happened   >   Background

   
 

Background to the Iranian Embassy Siege


Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein would soon lead his country to war against Iran. It would later emerge that Iraq had backed the Democratic Revolutionary Front for the Liberation of Arabistan (DRFLA) terrorists who had seized the Iranian embassy.

Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein
At 11:30am on April 30th 1980, six terrorists calling themselves the "Democratic Revolutionary Movement for the Liberation of Arabistan" (DRMLA) seized control of the Iranian embassy in South Kensington, London, England. The terrorists' initial demand was for autonomy for Khuzestan, an oil-rich province of Southern Iran, but later changed their demand to be the release of 91 alleged political prisoners held by the Iranian government.

(Later, after the incident was over, it was to emerge that the Iraq had sponsored, trained and armed the terrorists. This was most likely because Saddam Hussein wanted to gain control of Khuzestan - when the Iran-Iraq war broke later in the year, capturing this province became a key Iraqi objective.)

When the terrorists seized control of the embassy building, they took 26 hostages. Over the next few days, 5 hostages were released. Police negotiators tried to maintain calm and hoped to work towards an eventual peaceful solution; they supplied food and cigarettes, as well as getting the BBC to broadcast a statement from the terrorists, after threats to kill a hostage.

After six days, on May 5th, the situation dramatically deteriorated when the terrorists did kill a hostage - the Iranian press attaché Abbas Lavasani - and threw his body out of the building. The British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, then decided to order a rescue operation, and control on the scene was passed from the Metropolitan Police to the Ministry of Defence.

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