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1979: Militants storm US embassy in Tehran

VIDEO : Militants demand Shah's deportation to Iran

Militant Islamic students in Iran have stormed the US embassy in the Iranian capital,Tehran, and taken more than 90 people hostage.

The students have demanded that the Shah of Iran, who fled the country in January, be extradited from the US, where he is currently receiving medical treatment for cancer, to stand trial in Iran.

It is reported that revolutionary guards and police did nothing to stop the take-over and Iranian television has indicated its support for the action by broadcasting live pictures of the siege.

Ayatollah Rubollah Khomeini, who assumed control of Iran in February, has also voiced his support for the occupation.

'Show of strength'

It is not clear at this stage how many of the hostages are American although it is estimated that the figure is approximately 65.

One of the hostage-takers, speaking to reporters by telephone from inside the embassy, gave assurances that there was no immediate danger to the hostages, that they were safe and were being fed.

He said the action was a show of strength and the hostages could be released in the next two or three days.

Supporters of the siege, many of them children, have gathered outside the embassy. Some have set fire to American flags and have posted anti-American messages around the building.

As yet there has been no official reaction to the siege from America.

The storming of the embassy follows months of political and religious tension in Iran.

Violent protests against Shah Reza Pahlavi's regime culminated in a revolution coordinated by Ayatollah Khomeini from exile in France.

In January the Shah and his family fled Iran and are currently in the US.

Within weeks, Ayatollah Khomeini, who had been expelled from Iran by the Shah in 1964, returned to Iran and was greeted by more than five million devotees lining the streets of Tehran.

The Ayatollah immediately dismissed Prime Minister Shapur Bahktiar and installed Mehdi Bzargan as his replacement.

He declared an Islamic Republic of Iran in April and since then he has presided over a brutal and repressive regime.

Thousands of westerners living in Iran have already fled the country in fear of their lives.

In Context
Two weeks after the siege began 13 female and black hostages were released from the embassy.

In April 1980 a dramatic rescue mission failed and eight American soldiers were killed.

Diplomatic relations between Iran and the US broke down in July 1980 over the crisis.

On 21 January 1981, on the same day as the inauguration of President Reagan, the crisis came to an end when 52 American hostages were freed after 444 days.

The Shah of Iran never returned to Iran and died in exile in Egypt in July 1980.

Ayatollah Khomeini died in June 1989.


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