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ON THIS DAY

11 February 1979: Victory for Khomeini as army steps aside. Supporters of the Ayatollah Khomeini appear to be in control of the Iranian capital, Tehran, tonight. Only 10 days since Khomeini’s triumphant return to Iran from exile in Paris, the army has returned to barracks and given up the fight to defend the old regime. Prime Minister Shahpour Bakhtiar, brought in by the Shah only last month in an effort to win back popular support, has resigned and disappeared.
Iran radio is reporting rumours he has committed suicide after his home in North Tehran was attacked and burned down. Civilian demonstators have again been on the streets today, seizing control of police and fire stations, forcing the officers to flee and arming themselves with the weapons they found inside. Khomeini set the country on a collision course five days ago when he established a provisional government under Mehdi Bazargan and called on people to demonstrate their support for an Islamic regime. Ten people died in a battle for one police station today. In total the death toll is now put at 200 with 700 injured. Demonstrators have taken control of the airport and radio and television station, where staff who had been on strike in support of the Ayatollah returned immediately and began broadcasting news about the takeover of the country. Elsewhere protesters have set fire to barricades across the streets, even in the heart of the main shopping and business districts of the city. Abandoned tanks have been left behind after soldiers previously loyal to the Shah have switched allegiances. Foreign embassies have been raided for their weapons. The only remaining resistance came from soldiers of the elite Imperial Guard, who were defending their headquarters in the north of the city at Lavizan and at two royal palaces. An announcement on television said the three bases had been surrounded by revolutionary forces and negotiations were under way for their surrender. Although there was no official announcement from Dr Bakhtiar of his resignation, the news has been repeatedly broadcast by the media. There had been rumours of a possible military coup. But a meeting of senior generals this afternoon acknowledged this would split the army and cause serious bloodshed. They put out a statement at 1400 local time ordering troops to return to their garrisons in order to prevent further bloodshed and anarchy. (Source: BBC)

10 February 1962: Russia frees US spy plane pilot. American spy plane pilot Captain Francis “Gary” Powers has been freed from prison in the Soviet Union in exchange for a Russian spy jailed in the US. Gary Powers was sentenced to 10 years in a Soviet prison after his U-2 plane was shot down over Russia in May 1960. But on Saturday Captain Powers, 32, walked into West Berlin across a bridge separating the city’s east and western sectors. At the same time Russian spy Colonel Rudolph Abel crossed in the opposite direction. Colonel Abel had served five years of a 30-year term for running a spy ring in the US. His sentence was commuted by US Attorney-General Robert Kennedy two weeks ago. However, the Russians have always denied any knowledge of Colonel Abel and even now maintain Mr Khrushchev freed the US pilot simply as a “goodwill gesture”. Another American, student Frederic Pryor, was also freed from the eastern bloc at the same time as Gary Powers. Mr Pryor had been held in East Germany without charge since last August. Gary Powers’ capture in 1960 caused an international crisis. Initially the American authorities believed there was no evidence left of either plane or pilot and tried to convince the Russians the U-2 had been a weather plane. However, the Russians then produced Mr Powers alive and well claiming he had admitted spying for the CIA. Russian leader Nikita Khrushchev demanded an apology from US President Eisenhower and when none was forthcoming plans for a superpower summit in Paris collapsed. US authorities have said it will be at least a week b

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