Three armed men occupying the Iranian Embassy in Kensington, London, threatened to blow up the building and the 20 hostages held inside by noon today unless their demands were met.
Six days that shook Britain
They wanted an aircraft to fly them out of Britain and the release of 91 prisoners in Iran. The gunmen said that they were Arabs from Iran, seeking autonomy for their region, Arabestan in South Iran. Among their hostages are three Britons. One was the armed policeman guarding the Princes Gate embassy, PC Trevor Lock, who was overpowered and bundled into the handsome white stucco building when the gunmen took it over.
The other two Britons in the embassy are BBC television men. They are Mr Chris Cramer, a news organiser, and Mr Sim Harris, a sound recordist. They were in the building applying for visas to visit Iran.
In Abu Dhabi, the Iranian foreign minister, Mr Sadeq Gothzadeh, said during an official visit that his country would execute prisoners in gaol there if any embassy staff were harmed.
Iran’s official Pars news agency quoted the foreign minister as saying that he had told the British ambassador to United Arab Emirates, Mr David Roberts, that the Iranian government did not agree to any of the gunmen’s demands.
Within minutes of the embassy seizure police surrounded the building and sealed off the area around it. By last night a huge force of police was ringing the embassy, with operations being directed by Deputy Assistant Commissioner John Dellow.
Delicate negotiations with the gunmen appeared to he making progress last night, when a large quantity of food was driven to the embassy in a police van, indicating that the gunmen were prepared to carry on talking. But there was no sign of the food being taken into the building.
Less encouraging was a dispute about the provision of a doctor for an injured hostage. The man, thought to be an Iranian official, was hurt when the gunmen took over. Although two shots were heard in the first minutes of the occupation it is not known whether the hurt man was shot.
Late last night the police tacitly admitted that they denied the request for a doctor. Mr Dellow said: “At this stage there is no immediate requirement for a doctor, but there is availability should one be required.”
In a telex message sent earlier by Mr Cramer, the Arabs said that their request for a doctor had been ignored. One woman was allowed to leave the embassy in the early stages of the siege. She was in a state of collapse.
The police were leaving nothing to chance. As well as the hundreds of uniformed officers around the embassy, rooftops overlooking the building were occupied and large numbers of armed police were moved in. Sixteen members of the D11 marksmen’s squad occupied one of the buildings adjacent to the embassy.
Communication was quickly established with the gunmen — referred to by the police as “the hostage takers” — by telephone, through the front door of the embassy building, and by shouting through an open window.