Forty Years Ago, November 22, 1979: Kaaba Under Siege

Express front page, November 22, 1979. (Express archive)

Saudi troops were in a position to make an all-out assault against religious fanatics holding out in Mecca’s Grand Mosque but held back for fear of harming hostages and damaging the sacred edifice, the interior ministry of the country said. The statement, attributed to the interior minister, Prince Naif, said that security forces were in
complete control of the situation in the mosque. The ministry statement, broadcast by Riyadh Radio, made no mention of reports from Tunis quoting Saudi sources there as saying troops had assaulted the gunmen and recaptured most of Islam’s holiest shrine.

Bahuguna Defects

As expected, H N Bahuguna has joined Indira Gandhi whom he had described in a letter to Charan Singh as “the most discredited person in the country.” Apparently, he had his compulsions. The day he left the Charan Singh Cabinet, he said he could not go back to Mrs Gandhi because “nothing has changed in that party and the same people who brought about the Emergency and indulged in excesses rule there”. It is well-known that he tried all avenues to extricate himself from the situation he had created. He met Jagjivan Ram at his residence for nearly two hours on the night of Id. He telephoned Chandra Shekhar a fortnight ago.

Iran Hostage Crisis

The United States reserved the right to use force if Iran tries the 49 Americans in the US embassy in Teheran for espionage as Ayatollah Khomeini has threatened to do. Soon after Khomeini’s statement on television in Teheran that the Americans would be tried for espionage if Shah Pehalvi was not returned, the White House issued a statement saying that such a trial would be a flagrant violation of international law. The US, the statement added, was seeking a peaceful solution through the UN and other channels. This was far preferable to the “other remedies available”, the statement added.