On This Day, Nov. 21, 1979 – Protesters Attack and Burn US Embassy in Islamabad


1979 – The US Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan, was attacked by a mob that set the building afire and killed two Americans.

The five-hour siege began as an organised student protest outside the locked gates of the embassy compound.

But the demonstration grew violent as protesters pulled down part of the outer wall and broke into the compound itself.

Gunfire broke out, and a marine, who was standing on the roof of the building, was shot.

As the protesters began smashing windows and setting fire to the building, more than 100 embassy staff took refuge in a steel-lined and windowless vault on an upstairs floor.

Those trapped in the room included US diplomats, Pakistani staff members and a visiting journalist from Time magazine.

Ambassador Arthur W Hummel Jr., was outside the building when the attack began.

Staff inside were able to contact him, and it was Hummel who raised the alarm and requested help from Pakistan’s government.

Meanwhile, protesters found their way onto the roof of the building, and staff members later said they began firing bullets down ventilation shafts.

General Zia ordered the Pakistan Army to rescue the trapped Americans, and soldiers brought the situation under control at about 1800 local time (1300 GMT), about five and a half hours after the attack began.

The attacks are believed to have been triggered by a radio report from the Iranian leader, Ayatollah Khomeini, saying Americans were behind the occupation of Islam’s holiest site, the Great Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, yesterday.

The US State Department has described the broadcast as “irresponsible, outright, knowing lies”.

1620 – The Mayflower reached Provincetown, MA. The ship discharged the Pilgrims at Plymouth, MA, on December 26, 1620.

1694 – French author and philosopher Jean Francois Voltaire was born. At age 65 he spent only three days writing “Candide.”

1783 – The first successful flight was made in a hot air balloon. The pilots, Francois Pilatre de Rosier and Francois Laurent, Marquis d’Arlandes, flew for 25 minutes and 5½ miles over Paris.

1789North Carolina became the 12th state to ratify the U.S. Constitution.

1871 – M.F. Galethe patented the cigar lighter.

1877 – Thomas A. Edison announced the invention of his phonograph.

1922 – Rebecca L. Felton of Georgia was sworn in as the first woman to serve as a member of the U.S. Senate.

1929 – Spanish surrealist Salvador Dali had his first art exhibit.

1934 – The New York Yankees purchased the contract of Joe DiMaggio from San Francisco of the Pacific Coast League.

1942 – The Alaska Highway across Canada was formally opened.

1953 – British Natural History Museum authorities announced that “Piltdown Man” was a hoax.

1962 – President John F. Kennedy terminated the quarantine measures against Cuba.

1963President Kennedy and his wife, Jacqueline, arrived in San Antonio. They were beginning an ill-fated, two-day tour of Texas that would end in Dallas.

1973President Richard M. Nixon‘s attorney, J. Fred Buzhardt, announced the presence of an 18½-minute gap in one of the White House tape recordings related to the Watergate case.

1980 – An estimated 83 million viewers tuned in to find out “who shot J.R.” on the CBS prime-time soap opera “Dallas.” Kristin was the character that fired the gun.

1980 – 87 people died in a fire at the MGM Grand Hotel-Casino in Las Vegas.

1983 – In Los Angeles, movie theatres premiered Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video.

1985 – Former U.S. Navy intelligence analyst Jonathan Jay Pollard was arrested after being accused of spying for Israel. He was later sentenced to life in prison.

1986 – U.S. Attorney General Meese was asked to conduct an inquiry of the Iran arms sales.

1987 – An eight-day siege began at a detention center in Oakdale, LA, as Cuban detainees seized the facility and took hostages.

1989 – The proceedings of Britain’s House of Commons were televised live for the first time.

1992 – Senator Bob Packwood, issued an apology, but refused to discuss allegations that he’d made unwelcome sexual advances toward 10 women in past years.

2000 – The Florida Supreme Court granted Al Gore’s request to keep the presidential recounts going.

2001 – Microsoft Corp. proposed giving $1 billion in computers, software, training and cash to more than 12,500 of the poorest schools in the U.S. The offer was intended as part of a deal to settle most of the company’s private antitrust lawsuits.


Source: News.BBC.co.uk; On This Day.com