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1980: Gunbattle at British embassy in Iraq

Iraqi security forces have shot dead three gunmen who attacked the British embassy in Baghdad.

The unknown attackers, armed with automatic weapons and grenades, burst into the embassy grounds and set off explosions near the main entrances.

But they failed to enter the building and were killed in the embassy gardens by Iraqi security men, sent at the urgent request of the British ambassador, Alex Stirling.

Mr Stirling was inside the embassy at the time of the attack but neither he nor any other embassy staff were hurt.

Splintered

Embassy press officer David Richmond said: "We all rushed for the secure part of the embassy as soon as the alarm was set off, immediately after two explosions shook the building.

"I do not know exactly what happened. We were all keeping our heads down and as you can imagine there is still a lot of confusion around here".

Once the attack was over Mr Stirling visited the foreign ministry. The embassy, along with the ambassador's residence, has been kept under heavy guard.

The embassy's entrance is splintered and marked by bullet holes from the attack.

Attention will now turn to the attackers' identities and possible motives for the assault.

In Context
The attack came on the eve of Iraq's first national assembly elections for 20 years.

Iraqi officials said the attack on the British embassy was an attempt to disrupt the ballot.

But others saw it as an attempt to avenge the deaths of the masked gunmen shot dead during the storming of the Iranian embassy in London by the SAS the previous month.


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