Iranian student hardliners stormed the British Embassy in Tehran Tuesday to protest the latest sanctions, and to demand the British ambassador’s immediate expulsion. The students are believed to be from the paramilitary organization Basij.
Mehr News Agency initially reported that protesters took six of the embassy staff hostage in the residential compound, a report that Reuters tweeted, but Mehr’s report was quickly taken down. A Foreign Office spokeswoman said that the situation is “fluid.”
Washington Post correspondent Thomas Erdbrink, who is on the ground in Tehran, says he heard a Basij leader announcing that “the spies have been handed over to the police.” The Fars News Agency reports that six embassy employees had been detained but were handed to police.
Erdbrink estimates that about 400 young people converged on the embassy — gaining access to a security outpost, hurling three satellite dishes down from the roof and taking down the embassy’s flag. Listen to Erdbrink’s audio report from Tehran:
The students, chanting “Death to England!” and other slogans, hoisted the Iranian flag in place of the Union Jack, lit fires and scattered papers around the compound for at least an hour before riot police removed them. They also raided the residential compound, according to news reports, and have set cars on fire there.
Watch a video of the storming:
In a statement, the British foreign office said that senior officials have urged Iranian authorities to “act with utmost urgency to ensure the situation is brought under control.”
The office continued to describe the situation as fluid and said details were still emerging.
The U.S. Press Secretary issued the following statement:
The United States condemns in the strongest terms the storming of the British Embassy in Tehran. Iran has a responsibility to protect the diplomatic missions present in its country and the personnel stationed at them. We urge Iran to fully respect its international obligations, to condemn the incident, to prosecute the offenders, and to ensure that no further such incidents take place either at the British Embassy or any other mission in Iran. Our State Department is in close contact with the British government and we stand ready to support our allies at this difficult time.
Below, follow live updates from Erdbrink:
More photos at Fars New Agency and in the gallery below:
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