Memories of Swedish identical twins and lonely beheadings in foreign lands

As I had no time to write a ‘proper’ blog this morning, I looked to see what the BBC had reported happening on this day in previous years…

7th October 1959: Southend Pier fire traps hundreds

Water from the past

Three hundred people have been rescued after being cut off by a blaze on the world’s longest pleasure pier on England’s south-east coast.

The visitors became stranded when a large wooden pavilion at the shore end of the pier caught fire in the early evening.

The pavilion, which is used for holding conferences and other functions, was empty at the time.

Most of the trapped people had been at the far end of the pier when the blaze started.

They had to walk most of the nearly 1.5 miles (2.4 kilometres) back because the electricity to the pier’s railway had been cut off.

However, they were not able to pass the burning pavilion and had to complete the journey by climbing down the pier structure and boarding boats to shore.

Firefighters from surrounding districts joined those in Southend to help put out the flames.

They were watched by a large crowd on the sea front – many of whom had come to see the pier’s famous illuminations.

7th October 1977: Invasion of Swedish identical twins

Identical twins from Sweden

Ninety sets of Swedish identical twins have travelled to Felixstowe for a brief shopping trip.

The twins are taking part in studies by researchers from the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm.

The scientists are investigating links between the environment and human behaviour.

But participants are viewing the excursion as a form of light relief. As one twin put it, they have come across “just for fun”.

As the twins disembarked from their ship, the Tor Scandinavia, each pair was confusingly dressed in matching outfits.

It is hoped the sets of siblings might find something different to wear when they spend their money in the local shops and boutiques.

7th October 2001: US launches air strikes against Taleban

So It Goes

The United States has begun its military campaign, Operation Enduring Freedom, against al-Qaeda and the Taleban in Afghanistan.

Cruise missiles and bombers have targeted the airports of Kandahar and Kabul and terrorist training camps near Jalalabad.

The attacks which began around 1630 GMT were quickly followed by a public broadcast from President Bush who promised a “sustained and relentless” campaign.

The Taleban has condemned the strikes and says it shot down a plane, a claim denied by the Americans.

Up to 50 cruise missiles are reported to have been launched from submarines in the Arabian Sea.

The US also flew in B52 bombers stationed on the island of Diego Garcia, and B2 Stealth bombers direct from the US itself.

Tony Blair confirmed the initial strikes involved a British contribution by HMS Illustrious and a small number of submarines.

They form part of a US-British naval coalition gathered in the region within striking distance of Afghanistan, including two US aircraft carriers.

Speaking at a news conference, US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, said key targets would be terrorist training camps and Taleban communications, fighter planes and air defence installations.

But the Pentagon says it will be mounting operations from the air and the ground, and defence experts say special forces are likely to be used soon into the campaign.

7th October 2004: British hostage feared dead in Iraq

So It Goes

Fears are growing that the British hostage, Kenneth Bigley, abducted three weeks ago in Iraq, has been murdered by his captors.

Engineer Mr Bigley, 62, and two Americans with whom he shared a house in the wealthy al-Mansour district of Baghdad, were captured on 16 September by the Islamist Tawhid and Jihad group.

His fellow contractors Eugene “Jack” Armstrong and Jack Hensley were beheaded on 20 and 21 September, when their kidnappers’ demands for the release of Iraqi women prisoners were not met.

The United States is holding two Iraqi female weapons scientists, Rihab Rashid Taha and Huda Salih Mahdi Ammash, but says it has no plans to release them.

Efforts to secure Mr Bigley’s release have been stepped up in the past few days.

Libya’s Colonel Gaddafi and Sinn Fein’s Gerry Adams have appealed to his kidnappers on behalf of the family.

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