Year
1996

Peruvian rebels seize Japanese ambassador’s home

In Lima, Peru, 14 members of the Tupac Amaru leftist rebel movement, disguised as waiters and caterers, slip into the home of Japanese Ambassador Morihisa Aoki, where a reception honoring the birthday of the Japanese emperor was being held. The armed terrorists took 490 people hostage. Police promptly surrounded the compound, and the rebels agreed to release 170 women and elderly guests but declared they would kill the remaining 320 if their demands were not met.

The Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) was founded in 1984 as a militant organization dedicated to communist revolution in Peru. A few days after the hostage crisis at the Japanese ambassador’s home began, the rebels released all but 72 hostages and demanded the release of 400 MRTA members imprisoned in Peru. Among the important officials held hostage in the Japanese ambassador’s home were the brother of Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori; Foreign Minister Francisco Tudela; supreme court judges; members of the ruling party; and a number of foreign ambassadors from Japan and elsewhere. President Fujimori, who was known for taking a hard-line stance against leftist guerrillas in Peru, did not give in to the key points of the rebels’ demands and on April 22, 1997, ordered an assault on the complex by a 140-man special forces team.

After secretly warning the hostages 10 minutes before the attack, the special forces team set off a blast in a tunnel beneath the building, which surprised the rebels and killed eight of the 14 immediately. The rest of the elite soldiers attacked from several other directions, overwhelming the remaining terrorists. All 14 rebels were killed in the assault, including the leader, Nestor Cerpa, who was shot multiple times. One hostage, Supreme Court Justice Carlos Giusti, was killed in the attack, and of the several soldiers wounded during the rescue operation, two later died from their injuries.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

“Squeaky” Fromme sentenced to life

A federal jury in Sacramento, California, sentences Lynette Alice Fromme, also known as “Squeaky” Fromme, to life in prison for her attempted assassination of President Gerald R. Ford. On September 5, a Secret Service agent wrested a semi-automatic .45-caliber pistol from Fromme, ...read more

First airplane flies

Near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, Orville and Wilbur Wright make the first successful flight in history of a self-propelled, heavier-than-air aircraft. Orville piloted the gasoline-powered, propeller-driven biplane, which stayed aloft for 12 seconds and covered 120 feet on its ...read more

Ford Madox Ford is born

Ford Madox Ford, a writer, editor, and member of the so-called Lost Generation who served on the Western Front during the Great War, is born Ford Hermann Hueffer on this day in 1873. Hueffer (he would change his name to Ford Madox Ford in 1919) had already published his first ...read more

Cambodian forces under heavy pressure

Cambodian government positions in Prak Ham, 40 miles north of Phnom Penh, and the 4,000-man base at Taing Kauk are the targets of continuous heavy bombardment by communist forces. The communist Khmer Rouge and their North Vietnamese allies were trying to encircle the capital ...read more

Terrell Owens makes record-breaking 20 catches

On December 17, 2000, during a 17-0 victory by the San Francisco 49ers over the Chicago Bears, San Francisco’s wide receiver Terrell Owens sets a new league record of 20 catches in a single game. Drafted by the 49ers in the third round of the 1996 NFL draft, Owens was thrilled to ...read more

“Silver Dollar” Tabor born in Denver

On this day, Rosemary “Silver Dollar” Tabor, the second daughter of Horace and Elizabeth “Baby Doe” Tabor, is born. The Tabors were one of Colorado’s wealthiest families of the time. Silver’s mother, Elizabeth Doe, came west from Wisconsin with her husband, Harvey, in 1877; the ...read more

A federal court puts its stamp on hip-hop

Gilbert O'Sullivan, an Irishman who favored bowl haircuts, suspenders and pants that ended at the knee is mainly remembered as the "one-hit wonder" behind the melancholy early 1970s hit "Alone Again, Naturally." But on December 17, 1991, he earned a larger place in music history ...read more

Circus catches fire in Brazil

On this day in 1961, a fire at a circus in Brazil kills more than 300 people and severely burns hundreds more. The cause of the fire was never conclusively determined but it may have been the result of sparks from a train passing nearby. Christmas week was just beginning, the ...read more

“Operation Iceman” nabs the culprit

Richard Kuklinski, a suspect in several murders, is arrested by undercover agents at a truck stop off the New Jersey Turnpike, marking the culmination of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms’ “Operation Iceman.” Kuklinski had sealed his fate when he showed operative ...read more

Grant expels the Jews from his department

On this day in 1862, Union General Ulysses S. Grant lashes out at at Jewish cotton speculators, who he believed were the driving force behind the black market for cotton, and issues an order expellingall Jewish people from his military district, which encompassed parts of ...read more