“They took the two terrorists, pushed them against the wall and shot them”
To many Britons in the spring of 1980 Iran was a “far away country of which we knew little”. There had been the news of the Shah’s overthrow the previous year but it had not affected Britain directly.
That all changed when six men calling themselves the Democratic Revolutionary Movement for the Liberation of Arabistan captured the Iranian embassy in central London. They wanted autonomy for Khuzestan, a petrol-rich area in southern Iran. Then they demanded the freeing of 91 political prisoners. They took 26 hostages, including PC Trevor Lock who had been guarding the building, and two BBC employees. The BBC broadcast an appeal from the terrorists and they released five of their hostages.
At 7pm on Bank Holiday Monday 5 May 1980, the sixth day, the terrorists killed 28-year-old press attaché Abbas Lavasani, and threw his body outside. The Counter Revolutionary Warfare (CRW) wing of the SAS had been sent to the embassy on the first day. The five four-man teams had rehearsed the mission in a mock-up of the building in a nearby Army barracks. The SAS went into action at 7.23pm, 23 minutes after Mr Lavasani had been thrown from the building, with an explosive charge in the second floor stairwell at the rear of the building. At the same time the power to the building was cut and stun grenades thrown. Five of the six terrorists were killed in Operation Nimrod and 19 hostages were saved. A terrorist killed one hostage during the attack.
16 Princes Gate, London, England
11.30am Wednesday 30 April 1980
The remaining terrorist, Fowzi Nejad, pretended to be a hostage and was taken outside. When the SAS realized their error one soldier wanted to take him back inside but the presence of the world’s media stopped him. Two of the terrorists, Shai and Makki, had been persuaded to surrender by the hostages but were killed by the SAS. A hostage named Dadgar said, “They took the two terrorists, pushed them against the wall and shot them. They wanted to finish their story. That was their job… [they] certainly had no weapons in their hands at the time.” A coroner’s inquestcleared the SAS of any unlawful conduct. When Margaret and Denis Thatcher visited the SAS, Mr Thatcher “had a big grin on his face and said, ‘You let one of the bastards live’.”
Fowzi Nejad was sentenced to life imprisonment. He was released in October 2008. He is still in Britain.
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
To cover the noise of the SAS preparations, the flight path into Heathrow was lowered and British Gas began drilling in a neighbouring street.