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British Embassy In Iran Attacked

Iranian protesters burned the British flag outside the embassy in Tehran today (Nov. 29, 2011) and then stormed inside, according to news reports.
Atta Kenare
AFP/Getty Images
Iranian protesters burned the British flag outside the embassy in Tehran today (Nov. 29, 2011) and then stormed inside, according to news reports.

Protesters described by state media as "students" broke into the British embassy in Tehran today, some throwing stones and "petrol bombs" and others getting inside and destroying documents. There were also reports of an attack on a second British diplomatic compound.

This follows the vote by Iran's parliament on Sunday to further reduce ties with the U.K. because of Britain's support for tighter sanctions on Iran due to its suspected pursuit of nuclear weapons.

Iran's Press TV says "hundreds of Iranian students have pulled down the [British] flag and demanded the expulsion of the British envoy to Tehran."

The BBC says the attackers "were ... shown live on Iranian state TV throwing stones at embassy windows and breaking them. Britain's The Telegraph, which is live-blogging, reports that "petrol bombs are being thrown," but that "Iranian security forces are attempting to eject [the] protesters," according to Iran's Fars News Agency.

The only story about the incident so far at Fars' English newssite only mentions a protest "in front of the British embassy" where a British flag was burned and there were shouts of: "Down with Britain", "Down with America", "Down with Israel" and "Students are Awake and Hate Britain."

The Telegraph adds that "British officials said they were urgently trying to establish whereabouts of staff and the scope of the threat unleashed by the breach."

Update at 3:15 p.m. ET. Iran To Face "Serious Consequences?"

NPR's Peter Kenyon reports that British Foreign Secretary William Hague has said Iran will face unspecified "serious consequences" for today's events.

Update at 1:10 p.m. ET. All British Nationals Accounted For:

According to Reuters, British Foreign Secretary William Hague "says all Tehran embassy staff and dependents are accounted for."

Update at 12:50 p.m. ET: There are reports from Iran, as Reuters says, that the protests and occupations of the diplomatic facilities are over.

Meanwhile, the White House has joined in the condemnations of the attacks.

And Iran's Foreign Ministry has expressed "regret for certain unacceptable behavior by a small number of protesters," the BBC says.

Update at 9:20 a.m. ET: Britain's Foreign Office says it is "outraged" by the attack on the embassy, the BBC reports. And the BBC adds that "Iran's semi-official Mehr news agency said documents from the embassy had been seized and set alight. Embassy staff fled by the back door, the agency added. ... Live TV footage showed Iranian riot police gradually clearing the protesters away from outside the embassy."

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Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.