Six-Day Siege: The 40th anniversary of the SAS’ dashing assault of the Iranian Embassy
While it seems like only yesterday in the minds of many, forty years have passed since a defining moment took place in London- one that would cement the modern legacy of the British Special Air Service as a tier 1 counterterror unit.
Sporting a gasmasked look that still remains in elements of popular culture, the SAS troopers would carry out Operation Nimrod, an all-out assault on the Iranian Embassy.
On 30 April 1980, Prime Minister Margaret “Iron Lady” Thatcher received disturbing news: six armed men had stormed the Iranian embassy on Prince’s Gate in South Kensington, West London.
The men, who belonged to the Democratic Revolutionary Front for the Liberation of Arabistan (DRFLA), had begun taking hostages and would issue demands shortly after the police surrounded the building.
The group’s leader, Oan Ali Mohammed soon requested the release of Arab prisoners from prisons in Khuzestan Province of Iran and their own safe passage out of the United Kingdom, a tall order considering the trouble they had caused.
By the sixth day of the standoff, the terrorists began to become frustrated and killed Abbas Lavasani, the embassy’s chief press officer. Dumping his body from a window, the image shocked the British Government into taking serious measures- the SAS would be sent in to liberate the surviving hostages.
Two emplaced teams -Red and Blue teams, respectively- commenced Operation Nimrod on the evening of May 5, the teams prepared to set off a stun grenade as they rappelled into the building, but a trooper became entangled in his line and another smashed a window attempting to free the stuck trooper.
With the enemy now alerted to the attack, the troopers blitzed into the embassy, securing hostages and neutralizing terrorists. While one hostage was killed by the gunman, others were spared a similar fate.
At one point, one gunman hiding amongst the hostages produced a grenade and was tossed down the stairs, where he was subsequently filled with lead by troopers below.
All in all, the raid lasted less than twenty minutes and was a legacy-defining moment for both the SAS and the Thatcher administration.
Fowzi Nejad was the sole surviving combatant from the DRFLA and was taken into custody. He was sentenced to life in prison, but was paroled in 2008 and allowed to remain in the UK. It is said that he currently lives in London under a new identity.
Following the raid, the SAS enjoyed immense fame, which both helped their reputation and threatened to hinder operations. Despite this, the Special Air Service continue to be one of the premiere special operations forces in the world today.
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