At Assen in the Netherlands, 72 Dutch hostages walked to freedom on Tuesday afternoon (march 14) after more than 24 hours as the captives of South Moluccan extremists.
At Assen in the Netherlands, 72 Dutch hostages walked to freedom on Tuesday afternoon (march 14) after more than 24 hours as the captives of South Moluccan extremists. An elite anti-terrorist unit of Dutch marines stormed into the government office block in the northern town of Assen where the hostages were being held. After a 20-minute gun battle, the three gunmen were captured and the hostages freed. Only four were injured, one seriously. One man was killed earlier in the siege and his body recovered from outside the building after the marines moved in.
SYNOPSIS: The drama began on Monday (13 March) morning when the Moluccan guerrillas stormed the three-storey headquarters of the Drenthe provincial government. Most office staff escaped, but 72 were taken hostage and held in the building's first floor restaurant.
Under cover of darkness, troops had taken up positions around the building, but at dawn there was no sign of the siege ending. The gunmen, using rifles with telescopic sights, fired frequently at the troops. No-one else was allowed within 200-yards (metres) of the building. In the first contact since the siege began, the gunmen requested food and medical supplies.
The guerrillas set a one o'clock deadline for their demands to be met, threatening otherwise to begin killing hostages. They wanted the release of 21 jailed comrades, an airliner to take them to freedom and GBP6,500,000 Sterling (13,000,000 U.S. dollars).
The first breakthrough sign came when the gunmen requested two fellow South Moluccans as negotiators. After 90 minutes they emerged with just one freed hostage. The guerrillas said they were sticking to their demands. The deadline passed without incident, but then Dutch Prime Minister Mr. Andries van Agt ordered in troops.
60 marines went in through the front door. They were the same men used in the operation 10 months ago to rescue hostages held by South Moluccans aboard a train. The resistance was shortlived and eyewitnesses said later the Moluccans fired from behind overturned desks, then realising they were outnumbered, surrendered. The hostages said they had been treated well, but that there had been no conversation with the guerrillas.
In a statement to Parliament after the operation, the Prime Minister said force had been necessary and the siege could not have been ended without violence.