US embassy seige in Islamabad- A page from History


May 4, 2009
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Almost 30 years have passed since armed groups of Militant students stormed the US Embassy in Islamabad.

In 1979, Pakistani students, enraged by a radio report claiming that the United States had bombed the Masjid al-Haram, Islam's holy site at Mecca, stormed the U.S. embassy in Islamabad, and burned it to the ground [1] . There actually had been a terrorist attack there, but the U.S. was not involved. The diplomats survived by hiding in a reinforced area, though Marine Security Guard Steve Crowley and another American were killed in the attack.

On 20 November 1979, a Saudi Arabian Islamic zealot group had led a takeover of the Mosque at Mecca. Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini immediately claimed that Americans were behind the attack on Islam's holiest place. This claim was repeated in media reports the morning of 21 November.

The event started as a small, peaceful protest against U.S. policies in Cambodia, as well as suspected U.S. involvement surrounding the military coup d'état of Zulfikar Bhutto in 1977. The protesters shouted anti-American slogans. Although, at first glance it seemed to be a small protest outside the embassy’s walls, buses later started pulling up filled with far-right Jamaat-i-Islami supporters in front of the main gates. Hundreds of people began climbing over the walls and trying to pull them down using ropes. According to an American investigation, after a bullet was fired at the gate’s lock by one rioter ricocheted and struck protesters, the protestors opened fire believing that an American marine on the roof of the embassy had fired first. Who actually fired first cannot be confirmed one way or another. Twenty-year-old Marine Stephen Crowley was struck by a bullet and transported to the embassy’s secure communication vault along with the rest of personnel serving in the embassy. Locked behind steel-reinforced doors the Americans waited for help to come and rescue them from a smoke-filled building.

Two days later, The New York Times published an article titled “Troops Rescue 100 in Islamabad; U.S. Offices Are Burned in 2 Cities” [2] . The article mentions Jody Powell, the White House press secretary at that time who said that the administration appreciates action taken by the Pakistani forces in bringing about the dramatic escape of the 100 people besieged for five hours in the embassy chancery.
Wapedia - Wiki: 1979 U.S. Embassy Burning in Islamabad

Some analyst beleive that this was the begining of Islamic Militancy in Pakistan with Jamaat-E-Islami coming to prominence for the first time.

Some experts are now seeing a closer link between the motivations of the Pakistani students and the thinking of militant Muslims determined to wage war against the United States. Washington Post Managing Editor Steve Coll writes in his 2004 book, "Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and bin Laden, From the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001," that the uprising was primarily led by the student wing of an Islamist group, Jamaat-e-Islami, that was rising in prominence and influence. When Osama bin Laden first traveled to Pakistan in 1980 or 1981, he visited Jamaat and donated money to the group, Coll writes.
A Day of Terror Recalled (

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