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1985: Deadly embassy attack in Ottawa

The Story

One security guard is dead and the Turkish ambassador is severely injured following an attack on Turkey's embassy in Ottawa. At 7 a.m., three well-armed men drive up to the gate of the Turkish Embassy in a rented moving truck. They shoot the guard outside his bulletproof enclosure, vault the fence and blast their way into the embassy with explosives. In this clip, a CBC radio reporter finds himself playing an active role in the drama. Once inside, the gunmen - who describe themselves as "Armenian revolutionaries" - take the embassy's occupants hostage and begin to negotiate. But rather than talking to police, they spell out their demands to CBC Radio's Vince Carlin, saying they want the Turkish government to acknowledge the Armenian genocide of 1915. At one point, the Turkish ambassador attempts to escape by jumping out a second-storey window. Four hours after it began, it's all over when the attackers lay down their guns in exchange for a police promise not to shoot. The other hostages are released unharmed, but the ambassador is left with a broken leg, arm and pelvis.

Medium: Television
Program: The National
Broadcast Date: March 12, 1985
Guest(s): Fred Longchamps, William Orr, Gary Rae, Gerard Rouleau
Host: Knowlton Nash
Reporter: Mike Duffy, Don Newman, Vince Carlin
Duration: 3:32

Did You know?

• This was the third assault on Turkish diplomatic staff in Ottawa by Armenian attackers in three years. In April 1982, the embassy's commercial counsellor was shot and critically injured in a parking garage. A group called the Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia took responsibility. Four months later, in August 1982, the embassy's military attaché was shot to death as he drove to work. The Justice Commandos Against Armenian Genocide claimed responsibility.

• The people responsible for the attacks, and many others on Turkish interests in Europe and Turkey itself, were all motivated by the same thing. Armenian groups claimed Turkey had murdered 1.5 million Armenians in 1915 and stolen Armenian territory.

• The Globe and Mail reported on March 13, 1985, that historians estimated that 600,000 Armenians were murdered. In 2005, historian Donald Bloxham estimated the number at one million.

• According to a 1985 Globe and Mail report, the Turkish government said 300,000 Armenians died during the time period in question and maintained it was not a systematic, planned genocide.

• In 2004 the Canadian Parliament passed a bill acknowledging the Armenian genocide. The Canadian Press reported: "The Turkish government rejects the charge of genocide as unfounded and says that while 600,000 Armenians died, 2.5 million Muslims perished in a period of civil unrest."

• In 1915, in the midst of the First World War, the Turks deported about two million Armenians to outlying desert regions. The Turks' action was a response to its belief that Armenians had assisted invading Russian armies and that the Allied powers supported Armenian self-rule. It was during this time that the alleged genocide took place. Turkey, however, maintained that any deaths resulted from the chaos of deportation and local disputes.

• After the war, Armenia became a socialist republic which was later absorbed by the Soviet Union. Armenia is located northeast of Turkey and southwest of the former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan. In 1991, when the Soviet Union broke up, Armenia and Azerbaijan both gained their independence.

• Three men, two from Quebec and one from Ontario, were charged with murder in the 1985 attack on the Turkish Embassy in Ottawa. They were: Kevork Marchelian, Rafi Panos Titizian, and Ohannes Noubarian. They said they were with the Armenian Revolutionary Army. In November 1986, an Ottawa jury found all three guilty of first-degree murder. They were sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole in 25 years.

• After the conviction, Noubarian said in a statement that the three were "deeply saddened" by the death of the security guard, 31-year-old Claude Brunelle. Noubarian added that the trio's actions "sprang from the national ideals we shared. However, something undesirable and regrettable happened and Mr. Brunelle died, resulting in the clouding of our aims and our goals and also resulting in our persecution and trial as simple criminals."

Also on March 12:
1821: John Abbott, Canada's third prime minister, is born in St. Andre-East, Lower Canada (now Quebec). He died in 1893.
1987: Brian Orser of Penetanguishene, Ont. wins the men's world figure skating title in Cincinnati. He is the first Canadian to win the title since Donald McPherson did so in 1963.
2002: Montreal doctors announce the first Canadian artificial heart implantation. A month earlier they gave 61-year-old Denis Demers an artificial heart pump designed for long-term use.


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