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Armenians Seize Turks' Ottawa Embassy

March 13, 1985|KENNETH FREED | Times Staff Writer

OTTAWA — Three Armenian terrorists pursuing a 70-year-old grievance seized the Turkish Embassy here Tuesday morning, killed a security guard and held 13 people hostage for more than four hours before surrendering to Canadian police.

As of early Tuesday evening, the three men had not been identified by police. However, one of them told reporters over the telephone earlier that they are members of the Armenian Revolutionary Army, a relatively little-known organization associated with other groups that have attacked Turkish diplomats and facilities around the world.

In a phone conversation with a Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reporter during the embassy takeover, one of the terrorists said they would hold the hostages and the building until the Turkish government ceases to occupy the territory that was once Armenia and acknowledges the killing of more than a million Armenians in 1915.

Armenian guerrillas have also taken responsibility for the murder of the Turkish consul general in Los Angeles in 1982 and for other killings and bombings of Turkish targets around the world.

However, the terrorists surrendered their arms and released the hostages--embassy staff members and relatives--after more than 100 police officers and soldiers using armored personnel carriers circled the embassy in the Sandy Hill section of the city about a mile east of the Canadian Parliament buildings.

The hostages, who included the wife and daughter of the Turkish ambassador, were unharmed. But the ambassador, 52-year-old Coskun Kirca, was taken to a hospital for treatment of a broken arm and leg suffered when he apparently jumped from a second-story window shortly after the three Armenians attacked the building.

The security guard, 31-year-old Claude Brunelle, was killed when he resisted the initial assault. He was an employee of the Pinkerton guard agency, which is employed by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to help protect all embassies and other foreign government facilities in Ottawa.

The dramatic events began about 7 a.m. when a truck that had been stolen in Montreal was driven up to the front of the embassy. The three men, police said, pushed open the gates of the iron picket fence that surrounds the embassy, shot Brunelle and blew open the front door with some type of explosive.

Neighbors reported hearing a long series of gunshots at the time and, later, the three men surrendered several automatic rifles.

It was at about that time, police went on, that Ambassador Kirca went out a window on the side of the building. He lay in a cold rain throughout the 4-hour, 15-minute ordeal, although a policeman made his way to the ambassador's side and shielded him from the terrorists.

The guard's body lay in the front doorway, but police were unable to reach it because it was in the line of fire of the terrorists inside.

As soon as the authorities were notified, the Mounted Police put into effect an anti-terrorist plan called Red Leaf One, which calls for coordinated action by city, provincial and federal forces, including the army.

The strategy also provides for attempts at negotiation rather than an attack, except as a last resort. The approach seemed to work Tuesday, although Deputy Prime Minister Erik Nielsen later told Parliament that security procedures at the embassy had "obviously" been inadequate.

The failure to provide more effective security measures was surprising in light of the constant threats and attacks on Turkish facilities worldwide. Four accused Armenian terrorists are awaiting trial here for two 1982 incidents in which a Turkish military attache was killed and a diplomat severly wounded.

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