TOP 500 REVIEWERon 20 May 2014
On 30 April 1980 six terrorists seized Iranian embassy in London and took 26 hostages. The attackers, Iranian citizens from Arab minority, declared that they were part of Democratic Revolutionary Front of Liberation of Arabistan (DRFLA), one of groups fighting for separation of their homeland, Khuzestan province, from Iran. They were without any doubt working for Saddam Hussein regime, as they received their weapons and some training from Iraqi intelligence service.
The terrorrists requested the release of Arab prisoners held in Iran as well as the right to leave United Kingdom to a safe place of their choice. British governement however had no leverage to obtain the release of Arab prisoners by Iran and anyway was not disposed to accede to terrorists demands.
Six days later the terrorists killed one of the hostages, an Iranian diplomat - after that there could be only one answer and indeed, elite soldiers from Special Air Service (SAS) regiment stormed the embassy. Five out of six terrorists were killed and one was arrested. Tragically, the terrorists had nevertheless the time to kill one of the hostages... One of SAS soldiers was also seriously wounded, but later fully recovered.
This book describes the whole crisis and the SAS attack quite comprehensively and very well indeed, with a lot of important (and also some less important but amusing) details. I learned a lot from it.
This anti-terrorist operation was the first of its kind for the SAS and even if it was obviously a success, from this book it clearly appears that there were still serious weaknesses in anti-terrorist tactics, equipement and training. Some blunders were indeed committed:
- the SAS failed to realise that terrorists disposed inflammable materials in many places; as result, in the opening stage of attack they used the kind of explosives and tear gas grenades which set the embassy on fire - which could have had dire consequences...
- at the beginning of attack one of the soldiers managed to get entangled in the rope and was trapped, defenseless, hanging near to a window (and also was seriously burned as result)
- the attack didn't begin simultaneously at all access points - which could have been a problem...
- one of soldiers made noise just before the attack began, warning the terrorist leader
- another soldier forgot to chamber a round in his MP5 - and found himself face to face with an armed terrorist, defenseless... He was very lucky that the terrorist decided to run away rather than killing him... Author actually claims that it was not the case of forgetfulness and that the weapon jammed, but I don't buy it - and if that was the case that would be EVEN WORSE!
Once all those mistakes taken into account, it becomes clear, that to some extent the SAS soldiers were lucky, that at least four out of six terrorists were definitely not very clever and neither were they well trained or motivated - in fact, with the exception of their leader, Oan, and of one other attacker (who murdered one of the hostages, Ali Akbar Samadzadeh, in the telex room), the others were rather the Larry, Curly and Moe of world terrorism...
All that notwithstanding, the SAS soldiers carried the day BIG TIME, especially considering that it was their FIRST real anti-terrorist operation, that they were attacking a HUGE building with A LOT of rooms and that they were facing six terrorists (two more than the Germans at Mogadishu), who had fully automatic weapons, powerful Soviet RGD5 handgrenades and good Browning 9 mm pistols and who at the beginning of the action still held 19 hostages in THREE distinct locations...
As I already said, this is a good book, but at one moment author made a really BIG MISTAKE: on page 19 it is said that the terrorists also had a "Polish-made Skorpion sub-machine gun"!!! Well, it is indeed true that the 7,65 mm vz. 1961 Skorpion is a weapon well liked by terrorists for its small size and massive fire power - but it was conceived and manufactured in CZECHOSLOVAKIA, with some being also produced under license in Yugoslavia, but NEVER in Poland!
Also on the same page author says that terrorists had "two 9mm SMG machine pistols" - and it stops here... I admit that I would really like to know precisely what were those weapons - were they maybe Stechkin pistols?
Finally, even if author tried to avoid giving that impression, from the description of events for me it was clear, that SAS soldiers were under orders to kill the terrorists even if they tried to surrender - and so they did, sparing only the one who was identified when hiding amongst hostages already OUTSIDE the embassy and therefore fully in view of many prying eyes... BUT, I don't mean that as criticism! Such orders could have been issued only by the Prime Minister (Margaret Thatcher), I believe she gave them and I think she was DARN RIGHT giving them, because a strong message needed to be send to all possible future wannabees - and it was send by SAS and evidently received 5 by 5 by everybody concerned, because such an incident never occured again in United Kingdom... Pity however that during all the 80 and 90s, in exchange for indemnity from attacks, United Kingdom allowed all Islamic extremists from around the world to live, labour and organise safely on British soil, creating the infamous "Londonistan" - with all the consequences which followed...
Bottom line, this is a very good, very interesting, very well written book, revealing maybe more than author intended - and therefore even more worthy buying and reading... Enjoy!