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ON THIS DAY

ON THIS DAY

04 December 1983: IRA gunmen shot dead in SAS ambush. SAS soldiers involved in an undercover operation in Northern Ireland have shot dead two IRA gunmen and injured a third man who escaped. He is being sought by police following the incident which took place a few miles from Coalisland, an area of County Tyrone known for IRA activity. No soldiers are believed to have been injured during the attack. The two men who died have been named as Brian Campbell and Colm McGirr. They were local men believed to be in their early twenties and who were known to be members of the Provisional IRA. It is understood the SAS patrol, which has been operating in the area, came across the two IRA gunmen who were both armed. One is understood to have been holding an Armalite rifle and the other a shotgun. The soldiers challenged both men and when they did not respond the patrol opened fire, killing the two men. A third man escaped in a car and the soldiers believe they shot the driver. The vehicle was later found abandoned a few miles away with blood stains on the seats. Brian Campbell was the brother of one of the 19 IRA men who are still on the run after he broke out of Belfast’s Maize Prison in September. It is not known if the SAS were lying in wait for the men but there has been increased covert activity by the security forces since the murder of three Protestant church elders in South Armagh. Gunmen had opened fire on a church congregation at Darkley Church during a Sunday evening service last month killing the men and injuring seven others. (Source: BBC)

04 December 1991: Last US hostage freed. Terry Anderson, the last and longest-held US hostage in Lebanon, has been freed. He will now be reunited with his fiancĂ©e and their six-year-old daughter, Sulome, a child he had never seen before he was kidnapped six and half years ago. His family faced an agonising wait after news of his impending release. Mr Anderson, who was the Associated Press bureau chief in Beirut at the time of his kidnap, was due to travel through Lebanon to Syria but was delayed by snow today. The delay created confusion and tears as his family wondered if it was another false alarm. But the former US Marine staff sergeant later emerged before a packed news conference in Damascus looking well. He said he had been informed of his release the previous afternoon and given a new set of clothes and shoes – his first since he was snatched off the street by an Islamic militant group on 16 March 1985. “I have thought about this moment for a long time,” he said. “Now it is here and I am scared to death. I do not know what to say.” He thanked Syrian, Lebanese, and Iranian authorities for securing his release and paid tribute to his family, friends and the thousands of well-wishers who had worked tirelessly to secure the hostages’ release. Mr Anderson said he spent his time in captivity listening to the radio, mainly the BBC which he praised. He also read whatever magazines and newspapers were available. Before his release he was ordered to read out a statement from his captors regarding the situation in Lebanon. Mr Anderson will now be taken to the American military hospital in Wiesbaden, Germany, where two other US hostages, Joseph Cicippio and Alan Steen, have been since their release earlier this week. On being the longest held American hostage, he said: “It is an honour I would gladly have given up a long time ago.” German hostages Thomas Kemptner and Heinrich Struebig remain in captivity. (Source: BBC)

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