On This Day - May 5th

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The Iranian Embassy siege of 1980, which began on 30th April, was ended on 5th May.

A group of six armed men had stormed the Iranian embassy in South Kensington, London. The gunmen, members of Arabs of KSA group campaigning for Arab national sovereignty in the southern Iranian region of Khuzestan Province, took 26 people hostage--mostly embassy staff, but also several visitors as well as a police officer who had been guarding the embassy.

They demanded the release of Arab prisoners from prisons in Khuzestan and their own safe passage out of the United Kingdom. The UK government quickly resolved that safe passage would not be granted, and a siege ensued. Over the following days, police negotiators secured the release of five hostages in exchange for minor concessions, such as the broadcasting of the hostage-takers' demands on British television.

By the sixth day of the siege the gunmen had become increasingly frustrated at the lack of progress in meeting their demands. That evening, they killed one of the hostages and threw his body out of the embassy. As a result, the government ordered the Special Air Service (SAS), a special forces regiment of the British Army, to conduct an assault — Operation Nimrod — to rescue the remaining hostages.

Shortly afterwards, SAS soldiers abseiled from the roof of the building and forced entry through the windows.

During the 17-minute raid all but one of the remaining hostages were rescued., Five of the six hostage-takers were killed.

The soldiers later faced accusations of unnecessarily killing two of the five, but an inquest into the deaths eventually cleared the SAS of any wrongdoing. The sole remaining gunman was prosecuted and served 27 years in British prisons.

The hostage-takers and their cause were largely forgotten after the Iran-Iraq War broke out later that year and the hostage crisis in Tehran continued until January 1981. Nonetheless, the operation brought the SAS to the public eye for the first time and bolstered the reputation of Thatcher. The SAS was quickly overwhelmed by the number of applications it received from people inspired by the operation and experienced greater demand for its expertise from foreign governments. The building, having suffered major damage from a fire that broke out during the assault, was not reopened as the Iranian embassy until 1993.

How many men from the SAS entered the embassy during the raid?

Here's the answer...

Although the SAS estimates that nearly 10,000 men have claimed that they were part of the raid, only 32 members of the regiment actually entered the embassy.