Special Forces Assault on Iran Embassy – Operation Nimrod


The date is Wednesday, the 30thof April 1980,
and six men are approaching the Iranian embassy in West London. The men are Iranian Arabs, and members of
a revolutionary group seeking the creation of an independent state in Southern Iran-
with the Iranian revolution having taken place just a year before, the nation was still in
a state of turmoil and various groups were eying the possibility of secession and the
formation of their own sovereign nation. The Iranian government had responded to the
wave of revolutionary zeal with brutal crackdowns, and two of the men now approaching the embassy
bear the physical scars of torture at the hands of the Shah’s secret police. The plan is simple: backed by the government
of Iraq, the men have been armed with pistols and submachine guns along with a few hand
grenades, all smuggled into Britain inside an Iraqi diplomatic bag. The six hostage takers have been emboldened
by the Iranian hostage crisis during which revolutionaries held American hostages for
nearly two years, and now want to use the leverage gained from taking hostages to secure
the release of prisoners taken into custody by the Iranian Shah in their home region of
Khuzestan. They plan to enter the embassy and overpower
the single British guard there, then barricade themselves until the release of the prisoners
and safe transport out of Britain is assured. If the British and Iranian authorities won’t
cooperate, well, they’ve come prepared to start killing hostages. It’s 1130 hours as the six men approach the
Iranian Embassy in South Kensington. Just inside is Police Constable Trevor Lock
of the Metropolitan Police’s Diplomatic Protection Group, and the sole armed guard present in
the embassy. Hidden under his jacket is a concealed Smith
& Wesson .38 calibre revolver, but as the men enter he is quickly overwhelmed and doesn’t
have a chance to draw his firearm. Constable Lock instead decides to cooperate
as the six gunmen barricade the front door and start rounding up the embassy’s occupants-
if he can keep the gun a secret a time may come when he can use it to good effect. The rest of the embassy’s occupants are in
a panic, and two employees manage to climb out of a ground-floor window before the gunmen
get to them. A third climbs out of a second story window
and hops across to the Ethiopian Embassy next door, and a fourth, Gholam-Ali Afrouz, the
most senior Iranian official present, and the highest value hostage, tries to escape
by jumping out of a second story window but suffers a sprained ankle and the gunmen quickly
recapture him. In all 26 hostages are herded to a second
floor room and ordered to blockade windows with any available furniture. Most of the hostages are embassy staff and
Iranian nationals, but a few are British visitors or employees also working at the embassy. Outside, police are already arriving on-scene,
unbeknownst to the hostage takers Constable Lock had managed to send a distress signal
over his radio before they took it from him. As the officers outside move to surround the
building, one of the gunmen threatens them with his submachine gun, and the officers
quickly pull back. Within thirty minutes though a blockade of
the neighborhood has been established, and the Metropolitan Police’s D11 unit, expert
marksmen trained to eliminate threats in urban environments with precision fire, have all
been deployed to vantage points around the embassy. An hour later and contact is made with the
gunmen via a field telephone that’s passed through one of the windows, and the leader
of the group, Oan Ali Mohammed, issues their first demand: the release of 91 Arabs held
in prisons in Khuzestan. If his demands are not met he will blow up
the embassy with himself and the hostages inside. Before hanging up, he tells the police that
they have a deadline of noon on May 1st. In response to the crisis, the British government’s
emergency committee, COBRA, is assembled. Made up of ministers, civil servants, and
expert advisers from the police and armed forces, COBRA’s job is to advise Prime Minister
Margaret Thatcher on a course of action during any emergency. Contact is immediately made with the Iranian
government, as the matter is technically an Iranian one with the embassy being considered
Iranian soil due to the Vienna Convention. The Iranian government however accuses both
the British and American governments of sponsoring the attack in retaliation for the yet ongoing
siege of the US Embassy in Tehran. With no cooperation from the Iranians, Thatcher
decides that British law will be applied to the embassy, even if it is technically sovereign
Iranian soil. Contacting the police again through the field
phone, Oan requests a doctor for one of the hostages. Frieda Mozzaffarian is physically unwell,
and the other hostages have been lying to Oan and telling him that she is pregnant. Yet the police refuse to send a doctor, not
wanting to give the gunmen yet another hostage, and ultimately Oan releases Mozaffarian when
her condition deteriorates substantially. After securing Mazaffarian, the police inform
the hostages that the British and Iranian governments are working on their demands,
and food is delivered as all settle in for a sleepless night. Late that night though two teams of Britain’s
Special Air Service troopers arrive on-scene. The SAS are elite military operators with
their roots in World War II, when they were tasked to operate deep behind enemy lines
in four-man squads to sabotage German airstrips and fuel depots. With a rise in global terrorism though the
British government saw a need for a specialized counter-terrorism task force, and thus the
SAS was expanded with the formation of the Counter Revolutionary Warfare wing, the UK’s
primary anti-terrorist and anti-hijacking unit. To date the CRW troopers only have one operation
under their belt, the storming of Lufthansa Flight 181 in West Germany . , as politicians consider whether they are truly
needed or not. Today, Britain definitely needs its elite
counter-terrorism troopers. At 0330 hours the next day, one of the two
SAS teams moves into the building next door to the embassy and are briefed on an immediate
action plan should the worst come to pass and the troopers need to penetrate the embassy
before a proper plan can be formulated. Such a development would likely end in disaster,
as the SAS troopers need the element of surprise in order to minimize the possibility of any
hostages being killed by the gunmen inside, but worst come to worst, they at least have
some sort of plan until a better one can be drawn up. A few hours later one of the gunmen orders
a hostage to call the BBC’s news desk, and after making contact with a reporter, Oan
takes the phone himself. He identifies the group to which he belongs-
the Democratic Revolutionary Front for the Liberation of Arabistan- and assures the reporter
that none of the non-Iranian hostages will be harmed. The reporter asks to speak to some of the
hostages but Oan refuses and hangs up. As the news report of the call hits television
screens around the world, the police outside quickly work to sever the telephone lines
going into the embassy, leaving the gunmen with just the field telephone with the police
for communication. Three of the non-Iranian hostages meanwhile
decide that one of them must get out, and they decide that it should be Chris Cramer
who is already ill. Exaggerating his existing symptoms, Cramer
pretends to be seriously ill and one of the other hostages is taken to the field telephone
to negotiate for a doctor. Once more the police refuse, not willing to
risk giving the gunmen yet another hostage to use as leverage. Eventually, at 1115 hours, the gunmen release
Cramer and he is rushed to a hospital, where he is met by police officers who grill him
for information on the situation inside which is immediately relayed to the waiting SAS
teams. As the noon deadline approaches, the police
become convinced that the gunmen lack the ability to blow up the embassy, but they persuade
Oan to a new deadline of 1400 hours. They allow this new deadline to pass as well
without contacting the gunmen, and eventually Oan calls over the field telephone, altering
his demands. He now wants that the British media broadcast
a statement of his grievances and for ambassadors from three Arab countries to negotiate the
group’s safe passage out of the UK. Upon hearing the demand, Margaret Hatcher
flat-out refuses any negotiation for safe passage, but does not tell the gunmen. Later that evening Oan is starting to become
agitated by sounds coming from the Ethiopian Embassy next door. Unbeknownst to the gunmen, the sounds are
those of SAS technicians covertly installing listening devices through the walls. Police Constable Lock is summoned and after
taking a listen, correctly deduces the SAS’s plans, but assures Oan that the sounds are
nothing more than mice in the walls. Alerted to growing suspicion by the hostage
takers over their drilling, British Gas is instructed to immediately begin drilling on
an adjacent road under the guise of repairing a gas main, and the SAS techs use the noise
as cover. However as the gunmen grow increasingly agitated,
the drilling is ordered to stop, and in response the British Airports Authority is ordered
to instruct approaching aircraft to fly over the embassy at low altitude as they came in
to land at Heathrow Airport. At 0930 hours on May 2nd, the third day of
the siege, Oan appears at a second-floor window and demands access to the embassy’s telex
system, which the police have disabled along with the phone lines. The telex can be used to rapidly send text-based
messages to any other connected unit in the world, and the police do not want the gunmen
to have the ability to be in direct contact with the outside world. Angry, Oan then demands to speak to somebody
from the BBC, and the police agree to this demand, producing Tony Crabb the managing
director of BBC Television News. Oan shouts his demands at Crabb, to be broadcast
over the BBC: safe passage out of the UK to be negotiated by three ambassadors from Arab
countries, and then informs Crabb to also include the group’s political aims in his
broadcast. For their part, the Foreign and Commonwealth
Office contacts the embassies of Algeria, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Syria, and Qatar
to ask if their ambassadors would speak to the hostage takers, but the Jordanian ambassador
immediately refuses and the rest say that they must ask their governments first. That night the BBC broadcasts Oan’s statement,
but only succeeds in angering Oan who believes that the statement was cut short and incorrect. Next door, the embassy caretaker briefs the
SAS on the physical construction of the embassy. He informs them that the main door is reinforced
by a steel security door, and that the ground floor and second floor windows are fitted
with armored glass- ironically on recommendation by the SAS themselves years ago. Their plan to penetrate the embassy via the
front door and ground-floor windows is quickly scrapped, and alternatives are brainstormed. At 0600 hours of the 3rdof May, Oan contacts
the police over the field telephone. He is angry because of the BBC’s incorrect
reporting of his demands, and accuses the police of deceiving him. He demands to speak with an Arab ambassador,
but the police negotiator on the other end lies and says that talks are still being arranged. Oan catches on to the negotiator’s delaying
tactic and tells him that now the British hostages will be the last to be released. He then demands to speak to Tony Crabb again
or he will kill a hostage. Crabb doesn’t arrive at the embassy until
1530 hours, almost ten hours after Oan demanded his presence, which angers both Oan and the
police outside. Oan relays another statement to be broadcast
to Crabb, threatening violence if this one is not accurately relayed- and the police
agree to allow the statement to be broadcast if two more hostages are released. Agreeing, Oan allows the hostages to pick
who will be released, and they decide on Hiyech Kanji, who is pregnant, and Ali-Guil Ghanzafar-
picked only because his loud snoring makes it hard for the other hostages to sleep at
night and irritates the terrorists. That night, under the cover of darkness the
SAS assault teams reconnoitre the roof of the embassy and manage to discover a skylight
which they succeed in unlocking. Should an assault be necessary, it will be
used as a point of entry, though ropes are also attached to the building’s chimneys so
that soldiers can abseil down the side of the building and gain entry through the windows
if necessary. The next day, May 4th, the Foreign Office
continues to hold talks with various diplomats from Arab countries, hoping to persuade at
least one of them to go speak to the hostage-takers. The diplomats insist that they must be able
to offer the men safe passage out of the UK, as they believe this will be the only way
to guarantee a peaceful outcome, but the British government is firm in stating that safe passage
will not be considered under any circumstances. Doing so would only embolden future terrorists. Ultimately the talks end in a stalemate and
no diplomat is sent to the embassy. Inside, Police Constable Lock has refused
to remove his jacket this entire time, telling the gunmen that he must maintain the appearance
of a police officer for the morale of the other hostages. In truth, he does not want to give away the
presence of his concealed firearm, and thus has also refused to eat any food- fearful
that if he has to use the bathroom then the guard sent with him may catch a glimpse of
the concealed gun. One of the hostages though is becoming increasingly
feverish, and the gunmen begin to grow suspicious that the food the police are sending in has
been spiked with a chemical agent. It hasn’t, but in fact the police had considered
exactly that, even going so far as to consult a doctor. Ultimately though the idea is dismissed as
impractical. Next door, the SAS commanders continue to
refine their plans for an assault on the embassy, aided by intelligence gathered from the surveillance
devices they’ve successfully planted in the walls. Early on the morning of May 5th, day six of
the siege, Oan wakes up Constable Lock, convinced that an intruder has entered the embassy. Accompanied by a gunman, Lock is sent to investigate
the building but discovers nothing. Oan however is only growing more suspicious,
and summons Lock again to examine a bulge on the wall separating the Iranian embassy
from the Ethiopian embassy next door. The bulge is in fact the result of the removal
of bricks on the other side to allow the SAS techs to break through the wall and implant
their listening devices, which weakened the wall and caused it to sag slightly. Oan is convinced that the police are planning
to break through the wall, but Lock does his best to assure Oan that no assault is forthcoming. Nonetheless, the suspicious Oan moves all
the male hostages to a different room down the hall, away from the bulge. With tensions mounting, at 1300 hours Oan
calls the police through the landline and tells the police that he will kill a hostage
unless he speaks to an Arab ambassador in 45 minutes. The British government is still adamant that
it will not allow a diplomat to offer safe passage out of Britain to the hostage-takers,
and thus forty minutes later when no ambassador has shown up, Oan calls the police back to
tell them that he has taken Abbas Lavasani, the embassy’s chief press officer, downstairs
and is preparing to execute him. Lavasani had been a devout believer in the
Iranian Revolution, and a staunch supporter of the Shah- throughout the course of the
siege he has butted heads with the hostage takers repeatedly and even provoked them. As Constable Lock would later recount, “if
they were going to kill a hostage, Lavasani wanted it to be him.” At exactly 1345 hours Lavasani got his wish
as three shots were heard from inside the embassy. With one hostage dead, the British government
decides that the time to act is now. The SAS commander informs Home Secretary Willie
Whitelaw that he should expect up to 40 percent casualties amongst the hostages in an assault,
forcing Whitelaw to reconsider. Ultimately though he instructs the SAS to
immediately prepare to assault the embassy at short notice, and by 1700 hours the SAS
assault teams are in position to begin an assault with ten minutes’ notice. The police meanwhile have recruited a local
imam to speak to the gunmen. The conversation however goes south quickly
as Oan grows increasingly agitated and suddenly three more gunshots are heard from inside
the embassy. Oan tells the imam that another hostage has
been killed, and that all the rest would be killed in thirty minutes if his demands were
not met. A few minutes later, Lavasani’s body is dumped
out the front door, but upon examination by a forensic pathologist it’s estimated that
Lavasani has been dead for at least an hour. This leads the police to assume that a second
hostage has indeed been killed, though in fact only Lavasani had been shot- the shooting
while on the phone with the imam had been a bluff. Metropolitan Police commissioner Sir David
McNee immediately contacts the Home Secretary and requests approval to hand control of the
operation over to the British Army, and his request is relayed to Prime Minister Thatcher
who consents. At 1907 hours official control over the operation
is handed over to SAS commander Lieutenant-Colonel Rose, who is authorized to begin an assault
at his discretion. As police negotiators contact Oan and begin
to offer various concessions in a bid to buy time, the SAS teams prepare for the assault. Split into two teams- Red Team and Blue Team-
one will abseil from the roof along the rear of the building and enter through the third
story windows, while the other team will enter through the skylight. At 1923 hours the go-word is broadcast, and
a four-man team begins to abseil from the roof while a second team opens the skylight
to drop a stun grenade below. Yet the assault immediately goes awry as the
staff sergeant leading the abseiling team is caught up in his own rope. This delays the second team as another soldier
tries to help the staff sergeant out of his rope, and in the struggle accidentally smashes
a window with his foot. Inside the embassy, the sound of the breaking
window alerts the gunmen who are on the second floor, and Oan and a few others move to investigate. The soldiers can’t use their breaching charges
on the windows anymore for fear of injuring the trapped staff sergeant, and instead kick
and smash their way in through the windows. As the first three soldiers enter through
the windows though, a fire starts which quickly races up the curtains and out of one of the
windows, severely burning the trapped staff sergeant. As a second wave of abseilers move down the
side of the building, one of the men cut the staff sergeant free who falls to the balcony
below, burnt but still able to continue the fight, he joins the rest of his men inside
the embassy. Lagging slightly behind Red Team’s assault
on the rear third floor windows, Blue Team detonates explosives on a first-floor window
and quickly gains entry. One of the hostages, Sim Harris, had run into
the room Blue Team penetrated through and is quickly moved out the window and to safety. Inside the second floor of the embassy, Oan
whirls on the attacking soldiers and raises his submachine gun, but Constable Lock tackles
Oan and drags him to the floor. Still armed, Oan is then shot dead by one
of the commandos. At the same time, more assault teams are entering
the embassy through the rear door, blown off its hinges with breaching charges. The assault teams below clear the ground floor
and the cellar without incident, while upstairs the team on the third floor exchanges fire
with two of the gunmen, fatally wounding both. A third gunman produces a grenade and prepares
to throw it into a group of hostages- only for Sergeant Tommy Palmer to immediately kill
the gunman before he can toss the grenade. In the chaos, hostages begin to be rounded
up, and within minutes all firing has ceased- yet the commandos know that not all of the
hostage takers have been eliminated. Not taking any chances, the SAS teams begin
roughly moving hostages down the stairs and towards the back door of the embassy- but
some of the hostages quickly identify one of the hostage takers trying to hide amongst
them. His ruse up, the hostage takers produces a
grenade, and one of the soldiers immediately shoves him down a set of stairs only to be
shot dead by two other soldiers waiting at the bottom. In just seventeen minutes, the raid is over
and all but one terrorist has been killed. The remaining terrorist tries to hide amongst
the hostages but is quickly identified as the hostages are all restrained in the embassy’s
back garden until they can be identified. For their part, the terrorists have killed
one hostage and seriously wounded two others, but the operation is a major success. Iran quickly sends Britain its thanks for
their actions in preserving the lives of their diplomats, and declares the two dead hostages
as martyrs for the Iranian Revolution. For his heroism, Police Constable Trevor Lock
is awarded the George Medal, the United Kingdom’s second-highest civil honor, as well as being
honored with the Freedom of the City of London, a rare award typically reserved for royalty
or heads of state. For his tackling of Oan during the raid, he
also earns a motion honoring him in the House of Commons. The SAS is widely lauded for their success
in the raid, but also draws heavy criticism when it was revealed that the hostages had
persuaded two of the gunmen to surrender, and tv footage appeared to show them throwing
their weapons out a window and holding a white flag. Two SAS soldiers who had killed the men both
stated during an inquest that they believed the men had been reaching for weapons before
being shot, and ultimately the jury reached the verdict that the soldiers’ actions were
justifiable homicide. The SAS however drew even more heat when it
was later revealed that the only surviving gunman, Fowzi Nejad, had been dragged away
by an SAS trooper who had planned to take him back into the building and shoot him. The soldier had reportedly only changed his
mind when he was told that the raid was being broadcast on live television. Though the raid was a success, questions over
the use of force employed by the SAS soldiers haunted the elite unit for years to come. SAS operators, and their brethren across the
world, are meant to be elite instruments of surgical violence, not agents of revenge,
and though facing incredible danger, must still keep a calm and collected head and not
overuse force when it isn’t warranted. The actions of Police Constable Trevor Lock,
who had been armed the whole time and yet had only drawn his weapon when he tackled
Oan, have often been used as a comparison point to what many see as the overuse of force
by the SAS troopers. In the end, though the operation was a huge
success, it is a stained victory for Britain’s elite Special Air Service. If you found this story interesting, check
out our other video: Can Russia Invade Europe? See you next time!

100 thoughts on “Special Forces Assault on Iran Embassy – Operation Nimrod

  1. That's quite an intense story, right. Related to this topic I'd like to know of the best hostage situation movie you've ever watched?

  2. Hey. Want some helpful advice? Stop beating around the bush and title this presentation, SAS raid at Princess Gate, Paragoda Troop 1980.

  3. Hostages : what’s that noise

    A US a-10 I’m bout end this mans whole career

    Enemy airstrkie inbound an nuke sound is heard

  4. The only issue I have with the SAS here is the near killing of the last terrorist. I can understand the two apparently appearing to surrender as fog of war can obscure their true intentions, but the with the last terrorist; they were way past the point of needing to chill.

  5. Elite special forces team drops in through sky light, surgically eliminating terrorists who have already killed one hostage

    No one:
    The Media: “Honestly this is police brutality”

  6. Potato land is part of united kingdom in 1980 acording to this chanel. I can hear trigered potato noises on the comment session.

  7. Why would it be homicide if they thought they were going to draw weapons they had a justified answer as they pointed weapons outside beforehand

  8. NO Special forces anywhere in the world have successfully saved hostages like the SAS have, when they had control over the situation no hostages we re killed and you call it a “STAINED VICTORY” because of inaccurate allegations from the terrorist

  9. Reporter to SAS Officer: Are you concerned about going to jail for shooting the Terrorist.
    SAS Officer: More like chewed out. I've been chewed out before.

  10. * SAS shows up *
    Terrorist: "You're too late…"
    Other Terrorist: "THE BOMB IS GONNA BLOW!"
    Both radios: Terrorist wins.
    SAS + Terrorists: "gg nice game bois"

  11. Interesting comment right at the end…………..'A stained victory for Britains elite Special Air Service' ……Mmmm……….. coming from a country that kills its own.

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