April 30, 1980: Siege at Iranian embassy in London

On April 30, 1980 six gunmen seized the Iranian Embassy in London, taking 21 hostages, two of whom they killed

LONDON, UK – Do you ever wonder where militaries get their names for operations from? Some are strikingly appropriate!

Throughout my 32 years in security intelligence I was used to codenames. Working in a secret (or even top secret and on occasions top top top secret!) environment you are exposed to all kinds of false phrases to hide what you are really doing. I suppose the reason for this is that if the name slips out those on the outside will have no idea what is actually happening.

The military has a similar practice. You have all heard of D-Day, right? The landing of allied craft on the beaches of Normandy to start the liberation of Europe from Nazi rule in 1944. Did you know that the ‘D’ does not stand for anything? It stands for ‘day’, so ‘day day’. Not very imaginative. The other name for that day, Operation Overlord, is a little more creative.

So what was with Operation Nimrod?

On this day in 1980

Six gunmen seized the Iranian Embassy in London, taking 21 hostages, two of whom they killed. The terrorists were members of a dissident Iranian group, the Democratic Revolutionary Front for the Liberation of Arabistan (DRFLA), a reference to the Khuzestan area of western Iran which is predominantly Arab.

As the days past the hostage takers grew increasingly frustrated that little was being done to meet their demands. On May 5 they killed embassy press attaché Abbas Lavasani and threw his body out a window, adding they would shoot a hostage every half-hour until they got what they wanted. At that point the UK government ordered Special Air Service (SAS) commandos to storm the embassy

Only one terrorist survived: he was given a life sentence in 1981. The SAS operation was nicknamed ‘Nimrod‘ – a biblical figure described in Genesis as living in Mesopotamia (now Iraq-Iran). Interesting choice that given the violent history between Arabs and Persians and more specifically between Iraq and Iran. Hmm….

PS by the way, nimrod is Canadian slang for an idiot. Let’s not go there!

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By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

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