SAS Hero Famous For Rescuing 19 Hostages In 1980 Iranian Embassy Siege, Dies Aged 71

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A former SAS operative Tom MacDonald who was famous for rescuing 19 hostages in 1980 Iranian Embassy siege died at the age of 71 after a battle with cancer

Written By Ruchit Rastogi | Mumbai | Updated On:
SAS hero

A former SAS operative Tom MacDonald who was an important part of a hostage rescue mission at the Iranian Embassy in the year 1980, died aged 71. According to reports, MacDonald was suffering from cancer. The 71-year-old was a part of an elite SAS team that was called in to rescue 19 people during a six-day operation at the Iranian Embassy located in South Kensington.

A tense standoff between the SAS and Arab separatists

The siege between the SAS and the Arab separatists took place after the separatists entered the embassy building in the year 1980 and had taken 26 hostages. According to reports, the hostages included journalists working with BBC and a diplomatic protection officer. After the demands made by the separatists to free a total of 91 prisoners from Iran was declined, then British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher called in the elite special forces SAS team to handle the tense situation.

After a standoff lasting for a period of six days, the special forces team entered the embassy building via a balcony entrance. Macdonald was wearing a mask and his pictures were taken by photographers as they freed the remaining 19 hostages. According to reports, five of the hostages were released earlier and one had been killed by the Arab Separatists.

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'The operation lasted only a few seconds'

A few months before his death, while talking to a local media outlet, MacDonald said the whole rescue operation lasted only a few minutes. He added that his team had covered five floors, with the snipers handling the first and fifth floor while the assault team handled the second, third and the fourth floor.

He also said a few of the separatists had come down to the floor he was on, adding that he jumped through the balcony entrance and went through the window. The 71-year-old had further added that in a span of 30 seconds he had gone through a window and killed two terrorists.

Tom MacDonald had retired and settled in Oamaru, New Zealand after having served in the Parachute Regiment, Territorial Army and the SAS (Special Air Service). Before he retired in the year 2003, he was awarded the Queen's Gallantry Medal for being a part of the SAS team that freed the hostages.

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(With input from agencies)

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